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Establishment of Citizenship Board gathers momentum

The establishment of a Citizenship and Immigration Board is gathering momentum, with the government having said it is moving forward with speed to amend the Immigration Act, to pave way for the setting up of the special board.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe, adopted in 2013, now provides for dual citizenship, which has for years been a contentious issue.

Despite dual citizenship having made its way into the Supreme Law, ZANU-PF, which does not enjoy much support from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, has always been against it, citing security concerns, tax evasion, and other similar issues.

This probably explains why six years since the adoption of the Constitution, laws have not been aligned with the national charter to provide for dual citizenship.

In May 2017, then Registrar-General, Tobaiwa Mudede, said the government would not align the Citizenship Act with the new Constitution, but would instead move for the amendment of the Supreme Law to abolish provisions allowing dual citizenship.

Mudede said some of the challenges dual citizenship posed included cases of tax evasion, evasion from justice, involvement in cases of human trafficking, international terrorism and problems in immigration control.

However, in February this year Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Monica Mutsvanga, disclosed that cabinet had finally given in on dual citizenship.

She said the government had approved the principles for the amendment of the Zimbabwe Citizenship Act as part of the ongoing process of aligning the country’s laws to the provisions of the Constitution.

Key provisions of the amendment, the Minister said would include permitting of dual citizenship for citizens by birth, the establishment of a Zimbabwe Citizenship and Immigration Board to, among other things oversee the granting and revocation of citizenship by descent or registration and prohibition of dual citizenship for citizens by descent and registration.

She added, the proposed changes would make it a requirement for those persons applying for citizenship by registration to have resided in Zimbabwe for 10 years as opposed to the current requirement of five years.

Officially opening the second session of the ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe on Tuesday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the August House would during the session; take the issue citizenship laws forward.

“Amendments to the Immigration Act will pave way for the establishment of a citizenship and immigration board as provided for in our Constitution,” he said.

Social commentator, Methuseli Moyo, told CITE, the move by the government to set up the special board to look into issues of citizenship was a step in the right direction.

“I think there has been a realisation that dual citizenship is a necessity in Zimbabwe given that our citizens are now dispersed all over the world,” he said.

“Some people even have children born in foreign lands, but would also want to call Zimbabwe home. They must be accorded that right. It is a good thing if the government has moved on to operationalise the modalities.”

He said he was optimistic that something positive would come out of the board.

“So far there is no reason to believe or suspect anything on the part of the government. I give them the benefit of the doubt,” he added.

Ngqabutho Mabhena, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, said there was a need for the board to be all-encompassing.

“It must include people that are in the Diaspora and their representatives; people who were previously considered to be aliens, those of Malawian origin and civil society because a board that only consists of members of the ruling party without taking into account the input from the Diaspora community might not advance the interests of every Zimbabwean,” he said.

Political analyst, Fortune Mlalazi, said: “My worry is that we are moving too fast into dealing with the issue of dual citizenship before we deal with issue of our citizens that are still called aliens. We have to deal first with the issue of aliens. We have to regularise their citizenship and then we can deal with such issues of new applications and dual citizenship.”

He, however, acknowledged that the world over has moved very fast on issues of permitting dual citizenship.

“Setting up a citizenship board will be okay provided they (government officials) do not politicize it. It has to be a professional body under the Home Affairs Department,” he added.

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