ZANU PF has proposed that only children born in the Diaspora be allowed dual citizenship in a development which, if adopted, is certain to be a huge blow to non-resident Zimbabweans, many of whom have taken up foreign citizenship.
The large non-resident Zimbabwean community had been hoping that the ongoing constitutional reform process would bring back dual citizenship which was outlawed at the beginning of the decade.
Currently the constitution stipulates that a person can only have single citizenship. To reclaim lost citizenship individuals in the Diaspora would have to renounce their foreign citizenship.
However, hopes that dual citizenship would be allowed had been encouraged by supportive comments from the two leaders of the MDC formations, prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy premier Arthur Mutambara.
In a Chatham House presentation during a visit to the United Kingdom in June last year Tsvangirai said the coalition government would work towards allowing dual citizenship.
“One of the challenges for us is the issue of dual citizenship. You may think it is a very innocuous demand but it is a real-life issue for those in the diaspora. So we have to work toward allowing that dual citizenship,” he said.
Professor Mutambara has also repeatedly weighed-in to support the issue.
"We need to change our laws. Let's not force people to choose against their country. You cannot have all your citizens in the country even if the country does well there are some Zimbabweans who will remain in Japan or England.
"Let's use our people outside to attract foreign investment and invite tourists to Zimbabwe," Mutambara has been reported as saying.
But in a summary of the party’s position on the constitutional reform process Zanu PF has signalled it will play hardball over the issue of dual citizenship.
The party is insisting that only children born in the Diaspora should be allowed dual citizenship, setting the stage for a bruising fight with its coalition partners in the intermittent constitutional reform exercise.
The proposal by Zanu PF, if sustained, will dash the hopes of many non-resident nationals who have taken up citizenships in their countries of residence.
While most of these would prefer to remain in their adopted countries dual citizenship would still be a welcome convenience as it would enable them to visit family members back in Zimbabwe with little trouble.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans left the country in the last decade, most to escape the country’s near-economic collapse as well as political instability.