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When would-be heroes turn bad
Judith Todd
May 03, 2007

Then take Zimbabwe’s registrar general, Tobaiwa Mudede.

After independence 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.

Mudede appealed 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.

Pending the 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 citizen.

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.

My temporary passport expired on July 30 2003 and I was stranded in Bulawayo with no citizenship and no travel documents.

*Judith 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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