UPON arrival in South Africa for a tour with Zimbabwe’s cricket team in 2006, something rather curious grabbed my attention.
By Enock Muchinjo
Next to us in the queue of foreign passport holders, going through the OR Tambo International Airport immigration, a separate row marked “returning residents” formed and in it lined up a prominent public figure in Zimbabwe — proudly clutching his South African passport.
It prompted one gentleman standing in front of me to pass comment, something along the lines of: “So these Zanu PF guys despise their own passport yet they want to lecture us on patriotism.”
The caustic remark drew chuckles and murmured exchanges among those within earshot, mostly from our Air Zimbabwe flight.
Our celebrity friend was able to go through the process much quicker, greeted some people he knew in our queue, before disappearing into the airport terminal.
Seven years later — hardly surprising given his well-known inclination — our friend officially joined politics within the ruling party, won a seat in parliamentary and earned himself a place in cabinet.
Definitely, for interest’s sake, I am keen to know if this esteemed gentleman continues to travel on his South African passport. Or both passports, assuming he is also in possession of his Zimbabwean one, a privilege which, of course, is not afforded to ordinary folk in this country — even those entitled to it under the ethos of birth and ancestral rights long embraced by the rest of the progressive world.
Not that it is anything new really in this country, the ruling elite and their hangers-on lavishly enjoyg the benefits they deny other citizens.
It is appalling, even more so when in this so-called new dispensation that foreign-born Zimbabwean footballers who have been earmarked for the national team — some coming forward to offer their services — keep being denied the opportunity to represent their homeland because the authorities have been dragging their feet on issuing passports.
On a ZiFM Stereo programme this week, Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare laid bare the sickening extent of bureaucracy the team has faced in attempts to secure the required documentation.
If Mpandare is to be believed, leaders of this country must collectively hang heads in shame.
German-born Kelly Lunga, for example, is said to be facing extreme difficulties in obtaining the passport he needs to represent the Warriors — despite his country of birth clearing the path for the player to represent Zimbabwe.
Lunga, for goodness’ sake, is the son of a distinguished former Zimbabwe player, but the country of his forefathers — a country his father served with honour and distinction — regards him as some kind of alien who must beg (or pay “something”, in Mpandare’s words) for the right to be called a Zimbabwean.
Meanwhile, according to Mpandare, another player has been denied a passport, while another has had his application for renewal turned down. One was born in the UK of thoroughbred Zimbabwean parents, while the other left as an infant.
All the while, Mpandare claims, he has been swung back and forth between the Minister of Sports, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the Registrar-General’s office.
They have all apparently been busy. I wonder, to concur with the Warriors manager, busy doing what exactly?