Confusion over 'aliens' in referendum poll

HARARE - The issue of Zimbabwean citizenship once again came to the foe yesterday as confusion reigned supreme in a poll to adopt or reject a draft charter crafted by a committee of Parliament.

Unspecified but large numbers were turned away because they did not qualify as citizens.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission spokesperson Lovemore Sekeramayi confirmed the referendum was open to citizens only.

“Prospective voters have to produce a plastic or metal identity card, a green waiting pass with a picture affixed or a passport that indicates if they are a citizen.

“Those with an ‘Alien’ classification are not eligible to vote. On whether they will vote if the draft is adopted is entirely another matter,” Sekeramayi said.

Across the country, reports indicated that hordes of Zimbabweans of foreign descent were turned away while those that had brought their driver’s licences could not vote because the metal disc did not indicate whether one is a citizen of not.

“We have turned away some people because they did not meet the criteria but I do not have the numbers now,” Simon Saunyama, polling officer in charge of Marondera Central command centre, told the Daily News.

At Ruwa Polyclinic in Goromonzi South, 20 people had been turned away by mid-morning, according to officials while in other areas officials refused to provide figures.

The new draft constitution, if adopted, will allow dual citizenship and the debate that raged during its crafting might have aroused the interest of citizens.

Zimbabweans in the “alien” category voted in the early years of independence before authorities invoked a constitutional clause that disenfranchised a very large section of society.

Critics accused President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF of punishing people of foreign descent because they voted against his party in the 2000 referendum that rejected a government sponsored draft and subsequent elections before the “ban”.

In a moment of anger following his referendum loss in 2000 Mugabe described this group of citizens as “totemless people”.

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