Confusion on dual citizenship continues

Confusion over dual citizenship

By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
07 July 2014

Confusion surrounding the issue of dual citizenship continues, with the Zimbabwean government website showing that dual nationality is still prohibited, a fortnight after the Constitutional Court ruled otherwise.

According to the website the 1984 Citizenship Act which says ‘no adult citizen shall be a citizen of another country’ is still binding. This is also despite the fact it is more than a year since the country adopted a new Constitution which experts say permits dual nationality.

The new Constitution entitles citizens of Zimbabwe by birth to take citizenship of other nations of their choice but the Registrar General’s office is adamant this right does not exist.

Optimism ran high following the adoption of the new Constitution but was dampened by repeated indications that the Registrar General’s office still considers dual nationality as illegal. However the optimism was revived two weeks ago when the ConCourt endorsed a Zimbabwean’s entitlement to dual nationality and ordered the office of the Registrar General to comply with the ruling.

In granting Farai Daniel Madzimbamuto his wish, the ConCourt ordered the Director of Immigration to endorse his South African passport with an unrestricted and indefinite residence permit. Experts welcomed the ruling saying it ‘merely confirmed’ what was already provided for in the Constitution.

But as the government insists on the old law, there are concerns that the right to dual citizenship will only be endorsed by the courts on an individual basis.
Harare-based lawyer Andrew Makoni said: ‘What appears to be the case is that you only get a result you want when you go to court, but when you approach the authorities they seem to be of the view that dual citizenship is not allowed in Zimbabwe.’

Makoni said the executive’s insistence on the ‘old order’ was baffling. He said: ‘From the Constitution itself it is very clear that there are certain levels of dual citizenship that are allowed and that has been re- affirmed in the recent court ruling. So when the executive insists that dual citizenship is not allowed I don’t know from which script they are reading.’

He added: ‘I don’t know if it is because of the use of the term dual citizenship. Perhaps we may have to change the term dual citizenship to mean something else for the authorities to be able to accept the provision. It is really sad for the executive to continue with this kind of interpretation; the government wants people of the Diaspora to help the country and at the same time it does not want to recognize their statuses.’

Makoni said the delay in harmonizing the laws with the new Constitution stood to perpetuate the confusion on dual citizenship.

Government is seen dillydallying in aligning all the laws with the new Constitution forcing individual citizens to seek recourse in the courts. The government resolve to perpetuate this state of affairs was demonstrated when the justice minister defiantly told parliament that as long as people did not approach the courts to scrap the old laws the government would continue to use them.



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