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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Battle to become Zimbabwean again
    Farai Shoko, Mail and Guardian, (SA)
    June 07, 2013

    Stripped of their citizenship ahead of the 2002 polls, thousands born in Zimbabwe became 'aliens'.

    To be accepted as Zimbabwean by the government is not as easy or obvious as it may seem to outsiders. One need only ask human rights activist Judith Todd and businessman Mutumwa Mawere, whose paths may never cross, but who are connected in their quest to be recognised as Zimbabwean.

    Todd, the daughter of former colonial Southern Rhodesia prime minister Sir Garfield Todd, is glad the new Constitution now restores her citizenship after she was rendered stateless by Zimbabwean authorities more than a decade ago.

    Todd, also the author of three books, including her controversial Through the Darkness: A life in Zimbabwe, was stripped of her Zimbabwean citizenship in 2001 along with 100 000 other so-called aliens as President Robert Mugabe faced an uncertain election.

    But with the stroke of a pen last month, Mugabe, who appointed Todd's father Garfield a senator in the newly independent country in 1980, signed into law the new Constitution, which allows dual citizenship, in effect restoring Todd's Zimbabwean status.

    Faced with fierce resistance from the then united opposition in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election, Mugabe's administration disenfranchised more than 100 000 people mostly born to Malawian or Zambian parents. They were deemed to be aliens.

    For Todd, the issue was her parents' place of birth. Todd was deemed alien because both her parents were born in New Zealand, though she herself was born in Zimbabwe and spent all her life in the country.

    Protracted legal battles

    Todd (71) fought protracted legal battles with Tobaiwa Mudede, the registrar general, who is also in charge of the voters' roll, in desperate attempts to retain her citizenship.

    "When my Zimbabwe passport needed renewal in 2001, Mudede refused to renew it, in effect stripping me of my citizenship," Todd told the Mail & Guardian this week.

    In May 2002, Zimbabwean Judge Justice Sandra Mungwira found Mudede's actions illegal and ordered him to renew Todd's passport, marking the beginning of a long battle that went all the way up to the Supreme Court.

    "Mudede complied with Mungwira's order to the extent that he issued me a temporary passport in which he pre-empted any further judgments by declaring I was a permanent resident, thus not a citizen, of Zimbabwe. When that passport expired he refused to renew it, so I was left stateless and with no travel documents. But I am now very glad that the new Constitution restores to many of us, but not all, alas, our citizenship by birth in Zimbabwe," said Todd.

    While she was stateless, Todd never surrendered her Zimbabwe identity card, "so I have just slipped back into normal life as a Zimbabwean. I have checked the voters' roll and I am there. So I will certainly be voting in the elections".

    'Potential voters for the opposition'

    She has no doubt in her mind why the Mugabe regime stripped her and thousands of others of their citizenship in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election and the subsequent polls in 2008.

    "It was quite obvious that all of us stripped of our citizenship were regarded as potential voters for the opposition. Stripping us of our citizenship was simply to disenfranchise us."

    Asked whether she was bitter with Mudede, she said: "I simply feel – quite unemotionally that as registrar general Mudede has betrayed Zimbabwe. That's all."

    Meanwhile, Mutumwa Mawere is also battling his citizenship status in court. He has filed an urgent application with the Constitutional Court, urging it to confirm the provisions regarding the issue of dual citizenship.

    Last week, Mudede told Mawere that he first had to renounce his South African citizenship before he could apply for a Zimbabwe identity document and a passport.

    Court argument

    Mawere wants the court to compel Mudede to give him the identity documents to enable him to vote in the upcoming elections.

    He argues in his court papers that, according to the new Constitution, citizenship by birth is not revocable and there is automatic citizenship for people born to Zimbabwean parents. Mawere was born to Zimbabwean parents in Bindura in 1961.

    He further says that Mudede has no authority to try to negotiate the issue.

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