When Taurai Dziko (not his real name) decided to go and seek greener pastures in South Africa, like many Zimbabweans, he traveled on an emergency travel document (ETD) issued by the Registrar General in Harare. While in South Africa, Dziko managed to secure a job working for a brewing company.
But the ETD soon expired, and much as he wanted, Dziko could not secure a passport at the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa as he was given a long list of requirements that he could not fulfil without travelling back to Zimbabwe.
Left with very little choice, Dziko decided to fake his citizenship to Mozambican after hearing from his counterparts that the process was simple and easy, especially for people from areas bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
“It’s not hectic to get Mozambican identity, you don’t have to queue for days on end, and the officials treat you with respect. I just explained that I was from the Manica province, and that was that.
“After all, many people in Mozambicue speak Shona like I do, so it was easy to convince the Mozambiqans that I was one of theirs,” he said in an interview with NewsDay in Johannesburg.
Dziko said that he managed to secure a Mozambican passport, identity card as well as a driver’s licence, and prolonged his stay in South Africa.
He added that he does not experience any hassles from the South African police who are always on the prowl for illegal immigrants especially from Zimbabwe.
Dziko said that he was not at all fazed by the South African government’s programme to officially document millions of Zimbabweans currently illegally resident in the country.
“I am officially a citizen of Mozambicue living and working legally in South Africa. I have all the papers to prove it. When the South African government announces that they are giving permits to Mozambicans, that’s when I’ll go and register. There is a rumour that after Zimbabwe, they’ll do the same for ‘us’ Mozambicans, that’s when I’ll go,” Dziko said.
According to South African’s Department of Home Affairs, approximately 250 000 Zimbabweans had submitted their applications to acquire work permits and legalise their stay in the country by the end of 2010.
The figure — which is far below the estimated three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa — does not take into account thousands of Zimbabweans who have faked regional citizenships so that they can live and work in the country.
Because of lack of confidence in the documentation process, many Zimbabweans are content to stay in the shadows and continue masquerading as citizens from countries in the region other than Zimbabwe.
“The Mozambican government provided me with a permit that allowed me to stay in South Africa, keep my job and work for my family, that’s the important thing,” said Dziko.
While the South African government urged Zimbabweans staying in the country illegally to regularise their stay, the process did not go as smoothly as expected with the Zimbabwean government failing to provide the requisite documentation to its citizens.
Consequently, Zimbabweans who illegally secured regional citizenships chose to stay put while the regularisation process rolled out riddled with problems.
In a telephone interview with NewsDay, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs’ documentation of Zimbabweans project manager, Jacob Mamabolo, said that the documentation exercise was not necessarily targeted at all Zimbabweans resident in South Africa.
“The documentation project is not targeted at all Zimbabweans, it’s only for those Zimbabwean that are working in the country illegally or acquired illegal documentation,” he said.
“The problem with these people who secured Mozambican citizenships will come if they suddenly die and have to have their bodies taken back to Zimbabwe for burial. It will be difficult to convince the authorities that they’re Zimbabwean when all their documentation says otherwise,” said Washington Siduna, who is currently waiting for the approval of his work permit, and is a friend to Dziko.
However, Dziko was adamant insisting that he would be buried in his home country if he were to die anytime soon.
“I am from Zimbabwe – they will take me back there if anything were to happen, but for now, I am a Mozambican and I’m staying put like that,” he said.