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mostly tolerant views on citizenship - Briefing Paper No. 116
Eldred V. Masunungure and Heather Koga, Afrobarometer
March 28, 2013
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Citizenship is about
the right to belong to a state and enjoy its rights while also fulfilling
obligations. Without citizenship, a person can neither vote nor
be voted into public office. Such statelessness has, in many an
African country, been at the heart of numerous post-colonial conflicts.
From Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa to Uganda and Kenya in East Africa
through to Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa, the question
of who is or is not a citizen is frequently a fiercely contested
and unsettled issue. Often, the question of who is and is not a
citizen has been politically driven, for example, to prevent a political
rival from challenging the incumbent, or to abridge the right to
vote of a whole group of perceived enemies of the regime in power.
This is part of the repertoire of juridical exclusion and discrimination
that is widespread throughout the continent.
This has also been the
sad state of post-2000 Zimbabwe. The emergence of a robust opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, which was formed in
September 1999, posed a real threat to the long-ruling Zimbabwe
African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF). The contentious
issue of citizenship, which had been largely dormant in the previous
two decades, assumed a foremost position on the county’s political
agenda. It still occupies centre stage and has been one of the unresolved
issues in the country’s search for a new democratic constitution.
The immigrant population, especially those whose parents and ancestors
had migrated to Zimbabwe in search of employment from countries
like Malawi and Mozambique, and who were perceived to be largely
pro-MDC supporters, became a target as the country prepared for
both the 2000 parliamentary election and the crucial 2002 presidential
election. The regime disparagingly referred to the migrant population
as ‘totemless aliens’, and via citizenship legislation,
it deliberately excluded these populations from voting and benefiting
from other government programmes like land redistribution. The vast
majority of the so-called ‘totemless’ people had grandparents
and even great-grandparents born in Zimbabwe, and had no claim to
citizenship in any other country; indeed they knew no other country.
There are many ways of
gaining a country’s citizenship, the most common being by
birth, registration, naturalisation, descent, or adoption. To our
knowledge, no systematic research has been conducted to find out
what ordinary Zimbabweans think about this important matter which
affects a large proportion of the country’s population. The
Afrobarometer survey, on which this bulletin is based, sought to
fill this research gap.
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