CITIZENSHIP ACT: AN INFRINGEMENT ON HUMAN RIGHTS

The National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) notes with concern how the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act and its misinterpretation is making it difficult and nearly impossible for youths who are citizens of Zimbabwe to exercise their rights as citizens. The Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act Section 9(5) stipulates that;
A citizen of Zimbabwe who, when he becomes of full age, is also a citizen of a foreign country shall cease to be a citizen of Zimbabwe one year after he attains his majority unless, before the expiry of that period, he has effectively renounced his foreign citizenship in accordance with the law of that foreign country and has made a declaration confirming such renunciation in the form and manner prescribed.

This means that a minor Zimbabwean citizen who is also entitled to citizenship of another country will lose his Zimbabwean citizenship if he does not renounce foreign citizenship within one year of turning eighteen years. However renunciation requirements only apply to Zimbabwean citizens with dual citizenship but do not apply to a person who is merely entitled to foreign citizenship or has a right to acquire a foreign citizenship but has not claimed it. Therefore individuals only become foreign citizens when they have actively applied and been granted such a citizen status. Anyone who has not claimed foreign citizenship is therefore not required to renounce foreign citizenship.
It is however unfortunate that the Registrar general’s office continues to misinterpret the law, denying some citizens of their rights by declaring them aliens. For them to claim their citizenship they have often needed to go through the courts, a process that is not only time consuming but costly as well. This has also seen some youths being excluded from participating in national processes such as elections just because they cannot attain the necessary documentation that supports their citizenship. Such measures are infringing the democratic rights of young people who want to register as voters because they are unlawfully viewed as aliens.
However, according to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), 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. Rather, if the Registrar General (RG) refutes an individual’s Zimbabwean citizenship, they 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.
It has also been noted that several candidates have failed to attain identity documents for various reasons key among them the fact that they did not have guardians who could register their birth. This was made worse by the volatile socio-economic and political environment which over the years has seen some Zimbabweans leaving the country to seek better opportunities. As a result, their children cannot assume foreign identity documents on one hand while they cannot access Zimbabwean identity documents on the other. This has resulted in a situation where young people lack identity and a sense of belonging. This also adversely cripples their positive contribution to the development of a nation because they are not recognised as being part of the citizens of Zimbabwe.
In light of this, there is a need for the registrar’s office to ensure that accessing identity documents is made less tedious particularly for those who were born in Zimbabwe or develop mechanisms that will make it possible for foreign based Zimbabweans to be fully integrated in national processes. The cooperation of the Registrar General’s office would be fundamental in granting all Zimbabweans their full citizenship rights.

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