Zimbabwe: More information on citizenship issues (April 2002)

Published: 19/Apr/2002
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

Further to the explanation we issued in early March concerning citizenship and voting issues, we provide more information of relevance on citizenship issues. This is general information and is not intended to be regarded as “legal advice”. It is important that you consult a lawyer, as each individual’s circumstances are different.

Before and during the 2002 Presidential Elections a plethora of court cases were brought in the High Court and Supreme Court on the issue of voting rights. The Citizenship Amendment Act, number 12 of 2001, stated that a Zimbabwean citizen with a foreign citizenship had to renounce their foreign citizenship, in accordance with the law of the foreign country of which he held citizenship, by 6 January 2002 or lose his citizenship of Zimbabwe. It was stated that people who did so were entitled to have permanent residence status stamped in their passports. The law was therefore very clear.

However, the Registrar-General’s office interpreted the Act to mean that all Zimbabwean citizens with a potential right to a foreign citizenship must renounce the foreign “entitlement” if they wished to remain Zimbabwean citizens. At this point it was alleged that the Registrar-General’s office was removing affected people from the voters roll on the basis that they were no longer citizens of Zimbabwe. An application was brought to the High Court for a ruling on these points in the case of Tsvangirai v Registrar-General. The case also sought an extension of the deadline for a year because of the administrative problems faced by individuals attempting to renounce their various citizenships. A provisional order was granted by the High Court to the effect that the Registrar-General could only remove people from the voters’ roll in accordance with the procedures set out in the Electoral Act and judgment was reserved on the other issues. On 27 February 2002 the Honourable Mr Justice Adam handed down judgment. The judgment extended the deadline for renunciation to 6 August 2002. The order also stated that Zimbabwean citizens by birth do not have to renounce a potential foreign citizenship unless they actually hold the said foreign citizenship. This was in line with another High Court judgment by the Honourable Mrs Justice Makarau’s (below). The Registrar-General immediately appealed this judgment and Justice Adam’s order was suspended.

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Themes: Discrimination, Dual Nationality, Loss and Deprivation of Nationality, Voter Registration
Regions: Southern Africa, Zimbabwe
Year: 2002