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Shock over high numbers of stateless learners in Matabeleland

by Staff reporter
21 Mar 2021 at 08:30hrs | Views
AS many as 300 out of 700 learners at a primary school in Kezi, Matabeleland South province, were found to have no identity documents during a fact-finding mission by a Parliamentary committee, rendering them stateless.

This was revealed by Umzingwane legislator Levi Mayihlome in Parliament last week when he moved a motion calling on authorities to align the Citizenship Act to the Constitution to end statelessness.

In international law, a stateless person is someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of law.

Statelessness results in the denial of birth and travel documentation.

There are no exact statistics on statelessness in Zimbabwe, but research shows that about 30% of the original 2 million farm workers and their families were of foreign descent.

In his motion, Mayihlome, who is also the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services, called on authorities to domesticate international conventions and align the Citizenship Act to eradicate statelessness.

"During a visit by the Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services committee to Matabeleland South, Kezi, we were informed that at Halale Primary School, out of 700 pupils, 300 of them had no birth certificates, including seven from one family. The lack of birth registration and documentation leaves children at the risk of statelessness...," Mayihlome revealed in his push to end statelessness.

The Constitution provides for a progressive basis for addressing the issues of nationality and statelessness. Chapter 3 of the Constitution outlines that citizenship is acquired by birth, descent and registration, especially Section 43 (2) which entitles possibilities of dual citizenship for persons of Sadc heritage.

"...recommend that the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage urgently aligns the Citizenship Act [Chapter 4:01], Births and Deaths Registration Act [Chapter 5:02] and the Immigration Act [Chapter 4:02] with the Constitution in order to effectively address issues of statelessness," Mayihlome said.

The Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act (1984) strictly prohibited dual citizenship. The 2013 constitution decriminalised dual citizenship.

However, it is still not an absolute right to all persons as section 42(e) of the constitution prohibits dual citizenship in respect to those who are citizens by registration or descent.

In support of the motion, Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson Andrew Makoni said calls for the alignment of the Citizens Act to the Constitution were long overdue.

"The process of realigning at least 50 pieces of legislation, including the Citizens Act, appears off the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce Bill Tracker used by the Government. It is high time the process is put back on track," Makoni said.

"The principles for the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Bill were approved by Cabinet in February 2019 and the draft Bill prepared and as reported in the Sunday Mail of March 1, 2020 by the Secretary for Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Bill was awaiting submission to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, ready for tabling before Parliament before the end of June 2020."

Mayihlome also called on the Executive to "immediately take steps to accede to and domesticate the 1961 Convention on Reduction of Statelessness, the 1990 Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all migrant workers and members of their families and the 1957 Convention on the nationality for all and ending statelessness by 2024."

Source - the standard