THERE is a scramble by people from different nationalities from all over the world seeking Zimbabwean citizenship following the passing of the new Constitution which allows dual citizenship, the Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede, said yesterday.
Mudede said his office was inundated with inquries and demands from various people, including whites, who are claiming their citizenship and asking him to prepare their passports.
The statement by Mudede confirms that Zimbabwe is a destination of choice for many nationals across the globe and puts paid to claims by Britain and her Western allies who sought to dissuade people from visiting Harare over alleged human rights abuses.
The United States and the European Union led by Britain have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe and have issued travel warnings to their nationals against visiting Harare and even encouraging their citizens to leave the country.
But Mudede said he was having a headache with the constitutional provision on citizenship because it did not have a cut off period on which grandchildren could claim citizenship by birth.
He said even great-grandchildren of foreigners who came as migrant workers, but eventually secured citizenship by registration before they returned to their countries of birth, were coming to claim Zimbabwean citizenship, notwithstanding that they might never have set foot in Zimbabwe.
Mudede said the new Constitution allowed any person whose grandparents or fifth generation children were born abroad to claim Zimbabwean citizenship even while abroad.
He said the provision had opened a floodgate of people demanding to be conferred with that right despite that they hold the citizenship of other countries.
Mudede was speaking at his offices in Harare while briefing members of the portfolio committee on Women Affairs, Gender and Community Development who were on a familiarisation tour. “There is no question of second generation, third, fourth or fifth generation,” he said. “All of them have rights to come and that is the problem we are facing here.”
“We are having somebody phoning from Australia, Canada saying, ‘please look at my birth certificate, I want a passport’, when he is outside the country. I said, no, you have to come home, and he says, ‘no I want my passport first’, and I ask him: Do you have another passport of another country? And he says: ‘Yes I have two’. I ask him: so, why do you need a Zimbabwean passport? And he says, ‘because your Constitution allows me to do so’.
Mudede said each time he advised applicants that they needed to wait for the alignment of laws he would be taken to the Constitutional Court and had to date lost all the cases. “So, there is no difference,” he said. “A person born in New York can claim citizenship. Then you ask yourself the question whether or not this English is correct (citizenship by birth).
“What is now the difference between citizenship by descent, registration and by birth. Whether I like it or not I have to issue a passport to somebody abroad.”
Some of those that have approached the Constitutional Court and won include Zimbabwe-born, South African businessman Mutumwa Mawere as well as medical practitioner and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Farai Madzimbamuto, who are now holders of both South African and Zimbabwean passports.
Turning to queues at passport offices, Mudede said that the challenge would not end, but what was important was how to manage it.
“Queues will not come to an end”, he said. “People are going out of the country for greener pastures. Our economy is not performing because of sanctions, so people will always come here for passports.”
Committee chairperson Cde Beata Nyamupinga (Zanu-PF) said there was a need to separate queues for men and women to avoid cases of sexual abuse.
She said some men might take advantage of the long queues to abuse women while in the queues.
Asked why people were not allowed to submit their application forms online, Mudede said that was a security issue.
He said it was important for applicants to physically present themselves to allow authorities to check the information in their presence.