WITH hopes mutilated and distorted desires, I left the Zimbabwe Registrar-General’s (RG) office a disappointed man.
REPORT BY ELIAS MAMBO
Never in my life have I ever felt “stateless” and dehumanised like the day I was told that besides the Cabinet directive and constitutional requirement for the former “aliens” to be registered to vote and become genuine citizens, my status as an “alien” could only be revoked by denouncing my inherited Malawian citizenship.
I inherited this citizenship by descent unknowingly due to the mere fact that my father originally came from Malawi.
I became a Malawian by descent and got robbed of my Zimbabwean citizenship by birth because of the origins of my father, who only “fathered” the idea of me and left the sole task of bringing me up to my Zimbabwean mother who took care of me.
I thought the new rules would unshackle thousands of people who, for long, have been bound by xenophobic fetters of being labelled maBrantaya (meaning those who come from Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital).
The pain of being labelled mubvakure (the one coming from far) was to be relocated to the dustbins of history by the dawn of the new constitution that would bring a sense of belonging not only to me, but to thousands of others whose right to be Zimbabwean has always been in the doldrums.
The new constitution, as promised, was to usher in a renewed sense of hope that at last my birth right, my dignity and my sense of belonging was to be restored, but alas all were promises in vain.
I could not understand how a single government, with unity of purpose which had agreed during the outreach and final consolidation of the constitution to restore our stolen citizenship, could sing from different hymn books as policy pronouncements at the RG’s Office differed from what Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone and acting minister Emmerson Mnangagwa had said was a Cabinet directive.
I happened to have been there when they told the nation all that was needed was for “aliens” to go and “simply swap their identification to become citizens because they were born in Zimbabwe and citizenship was their birth right”.
I was there when Makone and Mnangagwa announced that “there was no need to wait for the new constitution to become the supreme law of the country because it was a Cabinet decision to railroad the voter registration exercise”.
I was there when the ministers declared that the once “aliens” were no longer “aliens with immediate effect”, but proud citizens of Zimbabwe by birth.
This was on April 23 at a Press conference in Harare.
The next morning at 3am, possibly millions of us “aliens” rushed to the RG’s Office to “simply swap our IDs as directed”.
There was excitement not only in my family, but among thousands of others who have been stateless for decades.
The excitement of becoming a citizen!
I never thought such a shift in status could bring joy and a sense of belonging.
At least, we were happy that we were now going to become real citizens who could vote and be heard.
Citizens who could contribute to the political discourse of their country without fear of being xenophobically attacked.
Yes, there was hope, the dawn of a new era!
By 8am, our excitement was dealt a huge blow.
We were thrown back into stateless citizens.
We were told to go from office A to B to C to D to whatever next, until we were convinced it was not going to be an easy walk to freedom.
We were told it was not as simple as Makone had said it. It was not that easy.
Like morning dew vanishing with the summer sunshine, so our hopes vanished, so our dreams were distorted and so we returned home heavily weighed by being stateless once again.
I am stateless in the sense that in Malawi they do not recognise my citizenship because I was born in Zimbabwe, yet in Zimbabwe I also remain stateless because I am an ALIEN.
Millions more are still aliens!