My mother was born and bred in Rusape, Zimbabwe, she has identified all her life as a Zimbabwean, while acknowledging the fact that she had immigrant parents. Her parents, were naturalised Zimbabweans, my grandfather was born in Mozambique and my grandmother was born in Malawi.
In 2002 when the Citizenship Act was amended, my mother became an Alien. She had to renounce Mozambican and Malawian citizenship which she had never held, she went through an arduous and emotionally taxing experience dealing with the Registrar General’s office, never a pleasant place to be even on a good day. As well as dealing with the Mozambican and Malawian Embassies that did not recognise her as one of them and therefore did not make the process easy or cheap.
Every time my mother has to renew her passport, she dilly dallies because she doesn’t want to go through the Citizenship office to have her papers verified and be made to feel less than what she is.
Fast forward to 2017.
On the 29th October, the first day of phase 2 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) voter registration blitz, my mother confidently went to register with her ID, marriage certificate, my father’s death certificate and the proof of residence that still is his name. The process of dealing with the Master of the High Court is a story for another day. The registration officer was not interested in all her paperwork all he asked for was her ID. After examining it he told her she cannot register because she is an Alien! Her ID has CN on it, meaning she is a citizen via naturalisation and therefore not allowed to vote. The demeanor and scorn of the registration officer unnerved her. This was the first time she had been called an alien to her face. She was regarded as an alien, the aliens we see on Sci Fi movies, foreign, ugly and unwanted beings.
Now, my mother is not one to be easily deterred or intimidated, she asked what her options were being an educated and savvy Gogo. She was told that had get her ID changed. She needed to go back to the Register General’s office, pay a certain amount and get a new ID. She had already done the renunciation process more than 10 years ago but it seems this wasn’t enough.
My mother went home, checked her passport, it didn’t have CN on it so she went to a different centre nearby and used that to register! Upon the advice of random people at the centre, she got her proof of residence form already stamped by a Commissioner, who was some distance from the centre: all she had to do was fill in her details. Something she considered odd.
My mother had a passport without CN on it; that was her saving Grace. She would not have been able to register if she only had the ID and did not have the $50 required to change the ID. How many people across the country have been turned away on this same technicality? What is ZEC doing to publicise this and make it easy for Zimbabweans to go and register to vote in accordance with the Constitution?
With her passport the process took less than 10 minutes. Possibly the only positive thing she had to say about the whole process.
Her experience with the registration process has made her more determined to vote when the time comes.
My mother, the alien will vote in 2018.