Constitutional Court rules on dual citizenship

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) in Harare

By Tichaona Sibanda
SW Radio Africa
26 June 2014

Zimbabweans are now allowed to have foreign citizenship while keeping their Zimbabwean citizenship, a leading law expert said on Thursday. But this only applies if you are born in the country.

This follows a landmark ruling by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt) in Harare on Wednesday that endorsed a Zimbabwean citizen’s unrestricted entitlement to dual citizenship rights. The ConCourt also ordered the Registrar General, Minister of Home Affairs, Attorney General and the Principal Director of Immigration to comply with the law.

Farai Daniel Madzimbamuto had approached the courts seeking to compel the Director of Immigration to endorse his South African passport with an unrestricted and indefinite residence permit.

Many Zimbabweans have been deprived of their citizenship rights, having to renounce any foreign citizenship in order to retain Zimbabwean citizenship.

Dr Alex Magaisa, a law lecturer and political analyst, said the importance of that ruling merely confirms what is already provided for in the new constitution. Magaisa told SW Radio Africa that the new constitution allows Zimbabweans, who are citizens by birth, to have citizenship of another country.

‘What it means is that it is not prohibited if for example you are in the UK, US, or South Africa to get citizenships of those countries. That is what the constitution provides and that is what the court has merely confirmed by this ruling,’ said Magaisa.

Confusion has surrounded the issue on dual nationality in the new constitution, with Magaisa saying: ‘The constitution allows certain powers that can be regulated by Parliament. One of these powers is the prohibition of dual citizenship in respect of citizens by descent or registration. What this means therefore is if you are citizen by birth, Parliament cannot under any circumstances, take away your citizenship,’ added Magaisa.

The law expert explained that the problem in Zimbabwe has been the implementation of laws as directed by the courts.

‘It’s a matter of implementation. One of the major problems we’ve had for years in Zimbabwe is not that we lack a good constitution, it is that we’ve had no people who are willing and able to implement the constitution,’ he said.

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