Source: UNHCR and OHCHR
Submission by UNHCR for the OHCHR Compilation Report Universal Periodic Review
2nd Cycle, 26th Session: Zimbabwe
Including extensive comments on citizenship and statelessness, in particular:
Issue 2: Prevention and reduction of statelessness and protection of stateless persons
Although the new Constitution provides wider protections for persons at risk of statelessness, gaps remain when considering the protections advanced by the 1961 Convention, to which the country has not acceded. For instance, while section 38 provides that persons continually residing Zimbabwe for at least 10 years and satisfying certain conditions are entitled to apply for citizenship, the law does not entirely protect persons that are stateless or at risk of statelessness. Additionally, while the constitution provides for the right of citizenship through a person’s mother or father, the NGO Lawyers for Human Rights reports that, in practice, a single mother registering a child in accordance to the law may at times face challenges due to patriarchal attitudes that persist. Further, the Constitution does not guarantee that a person living abroad for extended periods of time or those who failing to register can retain their nationality. Additionally, there is also no guarantee that a person shall not lose nationality if that loss would render the person stateless. In order to alleviate these gaps, UNHCR will continue to advocate for accession to the 1961 Convention which establishes an international framework to ensure the right of every person to a nationality by establishing safeguards to prevent statelessness at birth and later in life.
The 1984 Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act (as amended in 1990) provides the process through which one may register as a citizen of Zimbabwe. This is a restrictive piece of legislation, especially when looked at in light of the new Constitution. It provides, inter alia, that non-Zimbabwean children should have their parents registered before they can themselves be registered as citizens of Zimbabwe. The Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act does not contain safeguards with respect to loss of citizenship. It both appears to allow renunciation without the possession of or a guarantee to acquire another nationality. It also provides for the loss of nationality for those who reside abroad for more than seven years. As such, this Act needs to be amended and aligned with the new Constitution.
While negotiations have continued towards accession to the Convention, certain forces in the Government have discouraged the accession arguing, inter alia, that Zimbabwe does not have a statelessness problem.
UNHCR recommends that the Government of Zimbabwe:
a. Accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reductiion of Statelessness; and
b. Amend the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act No. 23 to reflect and implement enhanced safeguards contained in the 2013 Constitution and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness