Political parties clash over ‘aliens’

A WAR of words is looming between Zanu PF and the MDC formations over the interpretation of the provisions on citizenship and voting rights in the draft constitution overwhelmingly endorsed in a March referendum.

Report by Wongai Zhangazha

Zanu PF wants previously disenfranchised Zimbabweans, commonly referred to as “aliens” even if they are born in Zimbabwe, to only start voting after a new president assumes office following imminent polls. Its unity government partners MDC-T and MDC want the aliens to vote in the crucial elections.

Aliens voted in previous elections until 2000, but their democratic right was withheld when President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF government amended the constitution to outlaw dual citizenship while disenfranchising them as they were purportedly entitled to foreign citizenship.

However, Chapter 3 of the gazetted draft constitution, voted for by more than three million Zimbabweans in the March referendum, recognises citizenship by birth, descent and registration.

MDC-T Global Political Agreement (GPA) negotiator Elton Mangoma last week said Zanu PF was trying to introduce “some funny interpretation” to avoid the registration of aliens as voters before the next election.

“As far as the MDC is concerned, as soon as the constitution becomes law, these people (aliens) should be allowed to become citizens and register to vote,” said Mangoma.

“This should come from Chapter 3 which was agreed on and the agreement should immediately come into force when the constitution becomes law.

“Now Zanu PF is trying to make sure that they do not take part (in voting) by bringing up some funny interpretation on something that is clear and has been agreed on.

This is an issue that requires finalisation and we will make sure that what was agreed on is adopted.” Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF GPA negotiator Patrick Chinamasa were fruitless as his phone continuously went unanswered, as did that of MDC GPA negotiator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

This week a number of aliens were turned away at the start of the government’s 30-day mobile voter registration exercise.

This is despite Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone’s and acting Home Affairs co-minister Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent announcement that cabinet had ordered Registrar-General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede to immediately allow residents of foreign descent to register as voters after swapping their foreign IDs for local ones.

Officials at Highfield Community Centre in Harare said they had not yet been instructed to register “non-Zimbabweans”.

Aliens from Gweru, Harare, Bulawayo and Hwange were left confused after failing to register as citizens and voters despite political parties urging them to go and “simply swap their IDs to become citizens”.

“We woke up at three this morning since we knew there would be a lot of people who would come to swap their IDs as per government advice, only to be turned away in the afternoon by the registrar officials who are demanding that at least one of the parents of aliens must be Zimbabwean,” said Aisha Dube of Gweru on Monday.

While confusion reigns over the registration of aliens, sources at the RG’s office claim there are irregularities with regards to voter registration.

“The exercise of registering voters has always been done for three months in all previous elections since 2000, but has been reduced to a month now,” said the source.

The source also said there is an order not to issue new birth certificates to those without until the exercise is over.

“There are a number of people who are above 18 years without birth certificates who will not be able to vote because there is an order not to issue birth certificates, yet to get a new ID one has to be in possession of a birth certificate,” the source added.

“We are also not sure whether the RG’s office will be given time to capture all the information being collected around the country to come up with a complete voters’ roll because it takes one to two months to do the data capturing.”

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