HomeCommentGovt mustn’t politicise citizenship

Govt mustn’t politicise citizenship

A RENEWED push by Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede — who has seriously overstayed his welcome — to ban dual citizenship by amending the new constitution has reignited an otherwise closed debate on the issue.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

Mudede and others of his political ilk in Zanu PF and government want to go back to the old constitutional dispensation which rendered millions of Zimbabweans stateless and disenfranchised them in the process. Those affected were mainly Zimbabweans of Malawian, Zambian and Mozambican descent. Locals in the diaspora, particularly their children, were also badly affected. However, during the constitution-making process which led to the new supreme law of the land, Zimbabweans made it clear the country needs to get rid of the anachronistic arrangement which marginalised and alienated some citizens or children born in the diaspora.

This was only sensible considering that millions of Zimbabweans have roots in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique. Millions are also in diaspora where some have acquired foreign citizenship for professional and survival reasons.

Some Zanu PF political dinosaurs have, however, been arguing dual citizenship is a threat to national security as it can reward unpatriotic elements and promote divided loyalties. This notion links a passport to patriotism, and suggests that one cannot be patriotic and have allegiance to their country of origin if they have dual citizenship.

Of course, this is a threadbare argument based on the fallacy that patriotism flows from a passport. This misleading notion should not be allowed to influence such an important issue, which is about a sense of belonging, history and culture of people. Children born out of Zimbabwe to local parents, who automatically become citizens of countries where they were born, cannot be deprived of citizenship of their parents’ countries of origin because of paranoid bureaucrats and politicians.

These kids deserve an opportunity to travel freely and reconnect with their roots and cultural backgrounds, while strengthening the fabric of their African heritage.

Similarly, professionals and other people in diaspora who have secured foreign citizenship cannot suddenly be declared foreigners simply because of their new work stations in life, or change of circumstances of domicile, particularly when they did not willingly choose to leave the country.
Most people in the diaspora left because of political, economic and social problems in the country. So they cannot be punished for being pushed out and seeking refuge in foreign lands.

The apparent politicisation of citizenship by some government mandarins as recently shown by the growing debate around whether or not to grant the diaspora population dual citizenship or the right to vote is undesirable. Such archaic views are out of touch and unsustainable. Leaders and policymakers need to understand that globalisation has dramatically altered the dual citizenship debate in many countries. Zimbabweans living abroad make an enormous contribution towards the socio-economic development of our nation through remittances which now scale US$1 billion annually.

Besides, their knowledge, qualifications, skills, talents and expertise cannot be ignored nor rejected. We need that for development and progress. We also cannot reject investment coming from Zimbabweans in the diaspora on the basis of myopic views on citizenship.

Political reasons which were previously used to ban Zimbabweans in the diaspora from participating in local elections and holding political office are increasingly giving way to more enlightened and powerful economic and cultural arguments in favour of dual citizenship.

We need children of Zimbabweans abroad to return to work and invest in their homeland, attract foreign investors, promote integration and use their exposure and experiences for local development. Their knowledge can be useful in economic, technological and infrastructural development, as it could potentially reverse the brain drain bleeding the country. We also need sportspersons born outside the country to come back and represent their country of origin without hindrance. That is crucial to success in sport.

For these reasons and many others, dual citizenship is the way to go for Zimbabwe.

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