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Legal Monitor Issue 109
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

September 05, 2011

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Mudede faces jail

Human rights lawyers have asked the High Court to jail Registrar-General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede on contempt of court charges after he defied a court order to renew a citizen's passport. In an application filed recently, the lawyers want Mudede jailed for 90 days for defying Justice Susan Mavangira's order for the RG's office to renew Sebastian Piroro's passport.

Mudede has failed to renew Piroro's passport despite being given a two-week ultimatum to do so in March this year by Justice Mavangira. "That the Second Respondent be and is hereby sentenced to imprisonment in respect of the contempt of this Honourable Court as aforesaid for a period of ninety (90) days, or until such time as he fully complies with the Order of this Honourable Court in Case No. H.C.7248/2010 dated 31 March 2011, whichever is the earlier," reads an order sought by the lawyers.

Bryant Elliot of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is representing Piroro, a Zimbabwean based in Canada and deemed by Mudede to be an alien despite being born here.

In an affidavit lodged with the High Court, Piroro argued that Mudede deserved jail because he had "wilfully and persistently failed to obey and comply with the Order of this Honourable Court."

"This wilful and persistent failure by the First Respondent has caused me severe prejudice in that I am still not recognised as a citizen of Zimbabwe and I am still without a Zimbabwe Passport, despite the fact that I live and work at the present time in Canada. "Accordingly, it is respectfully submitted that the Second Respondent is in contempt of this Honourable Court," reads Piroro's affidavit. Piroro was born and educated in Zimbabwe and had sought to renew his passport at the Zimbabwean embassy in Ottawa. The travelling document was issued in 2000 and expired last year. But in response Mudede refused, alleging that Piroro was a dual citizen on account of his father having been born in Mozambique. Mudede said Piroro should first renounce his purported Mozambican citizenship-which he does not hold-before he could obtain a new Zimbabwe passport.

Mudede's office turned down Piroro's application to renew the passport. He indicated that his office could only do so after Piroro renounced his purported foreign citizenship.

In his argument which was thrown out by Justice Mavangira, Mudede argued that Piroro was a "Mozambican citizen by descent" who should have renounced his purported citizenship between 6 July 2001 and 6 January 2002 under the provisions of section 9 (7) of the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act.

Mudede argued that although Piroro was born in Zimbabwe and spent most of his life in the country, he had lost his Zimbabwean citizenship and was now regarded as an "alien".

Piroro's father, Saidon, was born in Mozambique. He migrated to Zimbabwe around 1955 and never returned to Mozambique. He became a citizen of Zimbabwe by registration and had a Zimbabwean identity number.

Piroro's mother, born in Marondera, was a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth.

Justice Mavangira ruled that Piroro was a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth in terms of Section 5 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The High Court Judge declared that "the provisions of Section 9 (7) of the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act (Chapter 4:01) in so far as it relates to citizenship by birth are ultra vires the powers vested in the Parliament of Zimbabwe in terms of Section 9 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and are in consequence of no force or effect."

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