GOVERNMENT yesterday reacted angrily to a report by  Amnesty International in Zimbabwe detailing how the country’s discriminatory and arbitrary nationality laws had left generations of migrant workers and their families marginalised.

In April 2021, Amnesty International launched a report titled We Are Like “Stray Animals” laying bare the devastating consequences of the statelessness crisis in Zimbabwe and how it has its roots in colonial history.

However, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage secretary Raphel Faranisi, appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Defence, Security and War Veterans, dismissed the report as outdated.

“The ministry has noted that the report is outdated in that it is alleged to cover events preceding April 2021. The said events are part of history, but were presented in a format and manner meant to evoke needless emotions as well tarnish the country’s image,” Faranisi said.

“More importantly to note is the deliberate disregard of all efforts government made to address very pertinent residual issues to deal with our past especially issues related to Gukurahundi.”

He said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) pledged to assist Zimbabwe with US$300 000 to deal with statelessness issues in the country.

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“The issue of statelessness has not yet been ascertained with certainty that it exists in Zimbabwe, hence the decision by the Civil Registry Department to undertake a study in collaboration with UNHCR in 2023.

“Regrettably, this was not done due to financial constraints. UNHCR has, however, promised financial assistance to the tune of US$300 000 and the project is earmarked for this year,” Faranisi said.

According to the UNHCR, approximately 300 000 people in Zimbabwe were at risk of statelessness as of April 2021.

Statelessness refers to the condition of being without a recognised nationality or citizenship while a stateless person is someone who is not a citizen of any country and, therefore, lacks the rights and protection that come with citizenship.

Faranisi also told the legislators that government’s position was that any claim of statelessness should be subjected to thorough investigation.

“The purpose of the investigation is to establish facts surrounding the origins of such persons and the truthfulness of such claims.

“There is grave danger to just register and grant citizenship; based on Amnesty International findings largely done through CSO.  It is crucial that as a country we use all the instruments available to us,” he said.

“Going forward the project currently being implemented by the ministry, namely the Active Notification of Birth and Death will to a large extent address issues related to statelessness.

“Any cases of statelessness that exist have never been, are not and will never be on account of a deliberate policy on the part of government.”

Faranisi said government had on many occasions carried out campaigns on civil regulations and it is possible some people would have missed these opportunities.