No change to weak citizenship clauses

By Bronwen Manby | January 30th, 2013
Final draft Zimbabwe constitution fails citizenship test
Final draft Zimbabwe constitution fails citizenship test

In terms of its citizenship clauses, the final draft Zimbabwe constitution published on 25 January 2013 follows almost word for word the language of the July 2012 COPAC draft so the main conclusion from my analysis of the earlier draft unfortunately still stands - that Zimbabwe's draft constitution fails the citizenship test.

The only changes are small language edits. One of these edits removes the words ‘or permitting’ in the provision that parliament may pass legislation for ‘the prohibition [or permitting] of dual citizenship in respect of citizens by descent or registration’. But this deletion makes no substantive difference, merely removing a confusion caused by the suggestion that legislation would be needed to permit dual citizenship when the constitution does not otherwise forbid it.

It is welcome that none of the ZANU-PF amendments proposed in August 2012 have been adopted but the clauses relating to citizenship are still cause for real concern. As I said in my study of the earlier draft, "...the basic framework proposed by the COPAC draft is quite unclear in some respects and, if adopted as it stands, is highly unlikely to resolve the controversies on this issue that have plagued Zimbabwe for the past decade and more." Sadly this bleak assessment remains valid.

For example, the protections against statelessness are very weak and may not resolve the status of many of those affected by Zimbabwe’s citizenship controversies.

In addition, if this draft is adopted - as seems likely - it means that Zimbabwe will still fail to fulfil 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.

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As a matter of fact, dual

As a matter of fact, dual citizenship will remain prohibited even after the new constitution is adopted, since the current Zimbabwe Citizenship Act – which prohibits dual citizenship -- will remain in force until replaced. The current draft constitution does not permit Parliament to pass legislation to prohibit dual citizenship for citizens by birth, so the law would be unconstitutional in that respect; but dual citizenship for citizens by descent or registration would remain disallowed.

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