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Debate Over Zimbabwe Dual Citizenship Heats up

Many Zimbabweans living outside the country have waited anxiously for the past three years for the constitutional draft to be completed hoping that dual citizenship would eventually be allowed under the country’s supreme law.

The document, which has been adopted by the House of Assembly and Senate, paves the way for a national referendum.

But it seems some of its provisions are unclear as Zimbabweans living in the diaspora can have dual citizenship while their children born outside the country have been left out.

According to the draft charter, persons are Zimbabwean citizens by birth, descent and registration.

Under Chapter 3, Section 36 of the draft constitution, a citizen by birth is a person born in Zimbabwe to citizen parents, or grandparents who are citizens by birth or descent.

It grants the birth status to those born to Zimbabwean parents in a foreign land on diplomatic missions or working for an international organization.

Section 37 of the draft document defines citizenship by descent as “persons born outside of Zimbabwe with either of their parents or any of their grandparents who is a Zimbabwean citizen by birth or descent, or if their parent is Zimbabwean by registration."

Citizenship by registration is defined as any person who has been married to a Zimbabwe citizen, person lawfully living in the country for at least 10 years and satisfies the conditions of an Act of Parliament, or a child adopted by a Zimbabwean citizen.

Critics argue that the draft charter is not very clear on citizenship with an opinion by the Open Society for Southern Africa (OSISA) saying no major changes have been implemented to the country’s weak citizenship clauses in the draft constitution.

OSISA says: "If this draft is adopted - as seems likely – the opinion continues, it means that Zimbabwe will still fail to fulfill its obligations under the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, to guarantee the right to Zimbabwean citizenship of a child born in Zimbabwe, who does not obtain, through his or her parents, the citizenship of any other state at the time of birth."

For perspective, VOA spoke with COPAC Co-chairman Munyaradzi Paul Mangawana and chairman Lovemore Madhuku of National Constitutional Assembly
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Mangawana explained the context of a dual citizenship under the draft constitution which affords certain rights to some categories of Zimbabweans.

In an effort aimed at persons with one or more parent who is a citizen of a neighboring Southern African Development Community (SADC), a new provision recognizes that person born in Zimbabwe as a citizen by birth.

Critics like Madhuku said the document has afforded more rights to children born of parents from SADC member states rather than to children born of Zimbabweans.

He said the provisions are flawed and should be rejected by Zimbabweans.