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would-be heroes turn bad
May 03, 2007
Then take Zimbabwe’s
registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede.
he displayed humility and kindness, helping many people in many
different ways. When my father was approached for help by an old
white woman in a retirement home he was able to go to Mudede. She
wanted to pay a final visit to relatives in South Africa, but had
no travel documents. The two men successfully did all in their power
for her and she had a wonderful last trip.
Yet, over the
years, Mudede became one of the most villainous faces of the Mugabe
regime. In 2001, my Zimbabwean passport lapsed, as is normal, after
10 years. Mudede refused to renew it. Along with his master and
fellow Zezuru tribesman, for that was the level to which they had
sunk, he and President Mugabe were intent on wiping out the citizenship
and voting rights of any Zimbabwean of whatever colour or background
thought to be against their ruling clique.
My father was
one of the first individuals affected. Stripped of his citizenship
before the 2002 presidential elections, his name was put on a special
list supplied by Mudede to all polling stations of those not allowed
to vote, even if, like his, their names were actually printed on
the current voters’ roll.
I was proud
of his response. He did not blink at reality and defer action by
saying, "This is an African problem for which there must be
an African solution." No. He went and confronted the evil directly
himself. Although almost 94 years old and rather shaky, he went
to the polls to vote. He got as close to the ballot box as he could
before he was turned away by the hapless presiding officer, Noyce
Dube, former pupil and then headmaster of Dadaya Secondary School,
whose parents had been married to each other decades before by the
very man he was now having to deprive of his right to vote.
The late Justice
Sandra Mungwira found in May 2002 that I had been stripped of my
citizenship illegally. She ordered Mudede to treat me as a citizen
by birth and to renew my Zimbabwe passport. Her decision was later
endorsed by Justice Benjamin Paradza, now a refugee in New Zealand.
against the high court rulings to the Supreme Court which, like
the voters’ rolls and citizenship records, was being cleansed and
was under the control of fellow Zezuru Godfrey Chidyausiku. By then,
practically all high offices in Zimbabwe were held by members of
Robert Mugabe’s Zezuru clan.
findings of the appeals court, Mudede reluctantly issued a temporary
passport of one year’s duration in which he pre-empted any judgement
by declaring that I was a permanent resident of Zimbabwe, not a
The case was
argued before Chief Justice Chidyausiku and others in January 2003.
On February 27, in an agonisingly confused and confusing judgement,
the court found that I was a citizen of New Zealand and Zimbabwe
and concluded: "For the avoidance of doubt the respondent has
two days, from the handing down of this judgement, within which
to renounce her New Zealand citizenship in accordance with the New
Zealand Citizenship Act. In the event of her failure to do so, she
will lose her Zimbabwean citizenship by operation of the law."
I managed to do what was ordered, painfully participating in what
I knew to be a charade.
The New Zealand
authorities responded in July stating that they had received my
application on February 28 for renunciation of citizenship, but
that this application could not be processed as I had never laid
claim to New Zealand citizenship. They could not help me to renounce
what I did not have.
passport expired on July 30 2003 and I was stranded in Bulawayo
with no citizenship and no travel documents.
Todd, the daughter of Sir Garfield Todd, erstwhile prime minister
of colonial Southern Rhodesia, spent eight years in exile in Britain
as an opponent of white minority rule in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia. She
returned to Zimbabwe shortly before independence in 1980, and soon
realised that, far from being the solution to Zimbabwe’s ills, Robert
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF were increasingly becoming the problem.
As the country slid into economic and social decline, Todd had a
front-row view from her position as director of an international
aid agency. Her memoir will be published this month in South Africa
by Zebra Press
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