Citizenship Rights Under the Draft Constitution

Democracy, Gender, Human Rights, Zimbabwe

Did you know that under the COPAC Draft Constitution:

  • Persons can acquire/get citizenship by birth if they are born in Zimbabwe AND (if at least one of their parents or grandparents is Zimbabwean), or if they are less than 15 years and they do not seem to have known Zimbabwean or foreign parents (in other words, the state adopts all orphaned children whose parents are not known, abandoned children and all unaccompanied minors as full citizens). This is a very important development for children’s right to citizenship.
  • Persons can also acquire/get citizenship by descent if they are born outside ZimbabweAND(if at least one parent or one grandparent is Zimbabwean by birth or  descent or  if one of their parents is a citizen by registration)
  • Zimbabwean citizenship can also be acquired by registration by any person who marries a Zimbabwean but only after 5 years of marriage, or by a foreign person who has lived in Zimbabwe legally for 10 continuous years or if they are a child and have been adopted by a Zimbabwean parent.
  • Acquisition of citizenship is gender neutral, it can be through the father’s side or the mother’s side and this is a very positive development
  • Getting passports is a right, an improvement from the Current Lancaster House Constitution given the significance of passports for women who want to engage in cross-border trading to sustain their families
  • Getting birth certificates is a right. This is an improvement from the Current Lancaster House Constitution which does not provide for access to birth registration as a right so then the Registrar General will be obliged to make birth certificates available for every child and every citizen as of right and not privilege
  • Both men and women are allowed to pass on citizenship to their foreign spouses after 5 years of marriage and to retain such citizenshipeven after they have divorced. The Current Lancaster House Constitution does not allow foreigners who get married to Zimbabweans to acquire citizenship through marriage; they can only be permanent residents. Previously only men could pass on citizenship to their foreign wives and when women contested this unequal treatment the court then made it impossible for both Zimbabwean men and women to pass on citizenship on to their foreign spouses
  • All citizens are protected from losing their citizenship. The Draft COPAC Constitution does not allow citizens to lose their citizenship if doing so will make them stateless; i.e. if it will leave with no right to citizenship of any country. This is also important because under the Current Lancaster House Constitution the Registrar General has been able to take away people’s citizenship if he thinks that they are not supposed to be Zimbabwean citizens. This has been possible where people were perceived to be dual citizens; i.e. to be a citizen of Zimbabwe and a citizen of another country at the same time. Dual citizenship is said to exist under the Current Lancaster House Constitution when:

-A Zimbabwean applies for the citizenship of another country without renouncing their Zimbabwean citizenship

-A Zimbabwean applies for a foreign passport while still in possession of a valid Zimbabwean passport

-A person born in Zimbabwe to parents of foreign origin; e.g. Zambian, Malawian, Mozambican does not renounce their ‘entitlement’ to the citizenship of the other country

For a more detailed discussion of this issue please tune in to Star Fm tonight at 1830 and listen to Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’s gendered analysis of the Draft Constitution

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