Zimbabwe-born businessman Mutumwa Mawere, who became a South African citizen in 2002, has been left frustrated after the Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede rejected his application for a Zimbabwean ID.
With a new constitution set to be signed into law within days, many hope it will do away with dual citizenship restrictions, but as Mawere discovered in a meeting with Mudede, details of which are in his letter to the RG below, those hopes could be dashed.
Mawere's fight to restore his Zimbabwean citizenship is worth following, especially for the many thousands who find themselves in a similar predicament as him:
20 May 2013
The Registrar General
Attention: Mr. Tobaiwa Mudede
Re: Birth, redlining, and citizenship
1. This is a follow up to our meeting of Friday, 17 May 2013, regarding the above.
2. You will recall that my application for an identity card (“ID”) was referred to you after it was established that my name was already flagged in the system on account of the fact that I am a holder of the citizenship of the Republic of South Africa.
3. My ID application was being processed by your colleague, Ms. Madhumu, who had referred the matter to the Office of Citizenship and in particular to Mrs. Chirove.
4. Mrs. Chirove already had details of my South African passport number suggesting that your office had already been seized with my matters prior to my application. I gave her a copy of both my expired Zimbabwean passport and a valid South African passport.
5. She requested to make photocopies of both documents as well as my birth certificate. She then asked me to come back to her office at 14:45 which I did. I was surprised when she informed me that you wanted to see me before the application could be processed.
6. At the meeting with you that was also attended by Mrs. Chirove, you informed me that I was not eligible for Zimbabwean ID document as I was no longer a citizen of the country based solely on the fact that I had voluntarily acquired the citizenship of a foreign state.
7. You suggested that I first needed to renounce South African citizenship prior to applying for Zimbabwean citizenship. In addition, you informed me that my application would first have to be processed by the Immigration Department of Home Affairs and then only if my citizenship is restored would I be eligible for the ID document. You also pointed out that even Zimbabwean born person will be subjected to residency requirements prior to citizenship being restored.
8. I responded to you saying that in terms of South African laws, dual citizenship is not permissible. However, renunciation of citizenship is not permissible unless the person concerned has another citizenship lest the person is rendered stateless which is not allowable in terms of the country’s constitution.
9. I, therefore, pointed out to you the absurdity of your construction that I needed to renounce South African citizenship prior to my right to citizenship by birth being considered by your office.
10. Notwithstanding, you indicated that your department works closely with the South African authorities and it is possible for one to be given a grace period that to allow one to obtain a certificate of citizenship from the Zimbabwean Immigration Office and then use such a certificate to renounce the South African citizenship.
11. According to the version that you provided, it is possible for one to then renounce the South African citizenship based on a certificate. You then indicated that I would also have to take an oath of allegiance to Zimbabwe.
12. I also asked you about the implications of the new Constitution on citizenship and in particular to persons who fall in my category. I pointed out that my understanding is that even under the expiring Constitution, persons born in Zimbabwe by a mother and father who were both Zimbabwean by birth have automatic right to citizenship.
13. I also made the point that such right can never be qualified or negotiable. You flatly refuted this construction maintaining that dual citizenship is not permissible and the new constitution will not change this. On this basis, you then denied me the right to obtain the ID that I had applied for in the ordinary course of business.
14. Your involvement in my matter suggests an ulterior motive. I should like to believe that other persons that were born in Zimbabwe of Zimbabwean heritage are not subjected to the same redlining treatment.
15. Such treatment of targeting certain persons because of their profile is not only discriminatory but is contrary to the provisions of both the old and new constitution.
16. You indicated that should I require clarifications, I should direct all my questions to Hon. Chinamasa, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs. I asked you why it was necessary to direct such queries to Hon. Chinamasa when the questions at hand were outside the scope of his mandate. You could not provide any logical answer other than exposing the fact that my issue had been a subject of discussion with Hon. Chinamasa.
17. You will agree with me that this matter involves the interpretation of the Citizenship Act as read with the old and new Constitution. The new Constitution that is now awaiting Presidential signature clearly clarifies the position that a person born in Zimbabwe of two Zimbabwean parents is automatically entitled to Zimbabwean citizenship.
18. The fact that such a person may be a holder of a foreign citizenship is irrelevant otherwise exception would have been provided in the new Constitution.
19. I also draw your attention to General Notice 584 as gazette by the then Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on 22 November 2002 that sought to clarify and declare the law relating to renunciation and proof of foreign citizenship and directed your office to apply the law as set out in the said notice.
20. The following applies even before the new Constitution is in place:
a. A citizen of Zimbabwe by birth may not be deprived of or denied his citizenship unless he is or has become a citizen of a foreign country.
b. A Zimbabwean citizen, who acquires foreign citizenship by marriage or by some other voluntary act, will lose his Zimbabwean citizenship if he does not renounce foreign citizenship within one year of acquiring such foreign citizenship.
c. Renunciation requirements only apply to a Zimbabwean citizen who is actually and presently a citizen of a foreign country, whether such citizenship was acquired by birth, descent, registration and naturalization, in terms of the laws of the foreign country.
d. A Zimbabwean citizen does not have to produce written proof or confirmation that he is not a citizen of a foreign country in order to establish his Zimbabwean citizenship status.
e. If the Registrar General refutes an individual’s Zimbabwean citizenship, he or his officials must produce documentary proof in the form of a foreign passport or certificate, the written law of the country, records in the possession of the R-G or results of investigations conducted into the individual’s citizenship status.
21. I presented my birth certificate to your office and it is clear that I fall within the category of persons who cannot be denied the right to establish citizenship without the burden of renouncing any foreign citizenship.
22. To allow me to approach the court as soon as the new constitution is signed into law, I would be grateful if you could kindly give me a letter confirming that the provisions of the new Constitution in terms of Sections 36 and 43(2) cannot be enforced on account of the operation of the Zimbabwe Citizenship Act.
23. You also made the point that there is a provision of a grace period that allows one to manage the process of renunciation of citizenship while seeking to establish Zimbabwean citizenship by virtue of birth. Please kindly provide me with the authority that creates the grace period.
24. I also pointed out in terms of South African laws there are protections against statelessness and one such protection is that no citizen can be deprived of his citizenship unless such a person is in possession of another citizenship. To the extent that I only hold South African citizenship, there is no legal provision for me to renounce such citizenship unless I am a holder of valid citizenship of another state.
25. To this end, I urgently require your assistance in resolving the impasse created by your assertion that no such impediment exists in terms of South African laws. You will appreciate that I also want to participate in the forthcoming general elections that will be held in terms of the new Constitution that clearly confers on persons like me the right to citizenship and consequently the right to participate in the elections as a voter.
26. In light of the urgency of the matter, I would be grateful if you could kindly respond to the above at your earliest convenience.
Cc: Hon. K, Mohadi, Co-Minister of Home Affairs
Hon. T. Makone, Co-Minister of Home Affairs
Hon. E. Matinenga, Minister of Constitutional & Parliamentary Affairs
Hon. P. Chinamasa, Minister of Justice & Legal Affairs