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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Stateless Zimbabwe residents gain citizenship
June 21, 2013
a winding queue in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, Judith
Kapito, 38, cannot hide her excitement: she is waiting to receive
a new identity document, one that will offer her rights and opportunities
she has long been deprived of.
Kapito was born
to Malawian parents who migrated to Zimbabwe - then Southern Rhodesia
- in 1960. She lost her citizenship in 2001, when the government’s
amendment of the Citizenship Act forced those born of alien parents
to renounce their foreign citizenship.
was born in Zimbabwe and registered as a national of the country,
had no other citizenship to renounce. She became stateless, and
remained so until the country’s new constitution, passed in
April 2013, restored her status as a Zimbabwean.
years, I had no identity, just a name. I had no country to call
mine because the government of Malawi, where my parents came from,
did not consider me as its citizen and could not help me in any
of documents at the Registrar General’s office has been slow,
but Kapito remains upbeat. “I am happy that there is now…
a new constitution
that brings back my citizenship, and I see so many opportunities
ahead of me,” she told IRIN.
Once she acquires
her new passport, Kapito plans to become an informal trader, buying
hairdressing chemicals from Botswana for resale in Zimbabwe.
was taken away at a time when things were bad in Zimbabwe, and it
was difficult to make ends meet. I could not cross the border, not
even to Malawi, which was supposed to be my country, and thus could
not make money as other traders were doing,” she said.
In 2000, an
economic and political crisis began when the government of President
Robert Mugabe forced out thousands of white commercial farmers to
resettle black Zimbabweans, leading to the displacement of former
farm workers, massive unemployment levels and acute shortages of
basic commodities. The move also forced millions of people to migrate
and others to rely on cross-border trade to earn a living or access
statelessness followed soon after. The 2001 amendment prohibited
dual citizenship; people who had migrated to Zimbabwe had to renounce
their natural citizenship before they could acquire a Zimbabwean
one. Kapito did not have the details, such as the name of her Malawian
village head, needed to acquire a Malawian passport from the embassy
in Harare, which she could then renounce.
the challenges have been myriad. An unemployed widow with three
school-going children, she has been struggling to get a court directive
to inherit and sell an old truck that her late husband left behind
because she could not obtain a marriage certificate; both she and
her husband were considered foreigners who could not legally marry
Kapito is among
thousands of migrants and their descendants to face such difficulties.
Duncan Sapangwa, 30, whose parents also migrated from Malawi, hopes
that restoration of his Zimbabwean citizenship will help him open
a bank account for his small carpentry business.
always turned my applications for a loan down because they said
I was an alien who could run away from Zimbabwe any time. I have
no doubt that my business would have grown if I had access to a
loan,” Sapangwa told IRIN.
The Harare municipality
also refused to put him on the city’s housing waiting list,
he said, because of his "alien" status.
many relatives who used to work on white farms but were chased away
by the new owners. The government said they could not be resettled
under the land reform programme because they were foreigners, and
they ended up as beggars on the streets. Since we are now citizens
once again, we hope the future will be better,” he added.
the Harare-based Research
and Advocacy Unit’s December 2008 report, A Right or Privilege:
Access to Identity and Citizenship in Zimbabwe, the law prohibiting
dual citizenship left thousands stateless, most of them young people.
the most affected are young generations of Zimbabweans whose grandparents
migrated from Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia” for a variety
of reasons, including war, famine and unemployment back at home,
said the report.
spokesperson of the Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiCZ), told IRIN it was difficult to
establish the exact numbers of those considered aliens living in
Zimbabwe as no formal study has been conducted, but he said the
figure could run to “several hundreds of thousands”.
The acting president
of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Associations, Lucia
Masekesa, accused the government of having been insensitive towards
migrants and their families.
leadership in this country failed to consider the plight caused
by taking the so-called aliens’ citizenship away... Nothing
was done to cushion them,” she told IRIN.
and Sapangwa receive proof of citizenship, they will be able to
exercise the rights due any other citizen of Zimbabwe, including,
crucially, the ability to vote in the impending general elections.
Kapito was prevented
from voting in the 2000 general elections because of widespread
political violence against perceived opponents of the government.
Afterwards, considered an alien, she was unable to vote in the 2002
presidential election or the 2005 and 2008
has been in power for more than three decades, set 31 July 2013
as the next election date. This decision was met with an outcry
from the opposition, who pointed out that amendments to electoral
laws were still being debated and that the voter registration exercise
needed more time. The South African Development Community has since
asking Mugabe to
extend the date to 14 August.
date, Kapito says she is happy she will finally be able to cast
Sululu, a member of parliament and of the parliamentary committee
on home affairs and defence, warned that it was too early for many
to celebrate the restoration of their citizenship.
people of migrant origin are facing problems getting new identity
documents and passport[s], and it may be a while before normalcy
returns," he said.
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