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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK
Zimbabwe's unwanted 'foreigners'
By Justin Pearce
BBC News website, Zimbabwe

In the third part of his series following an undercover trip to Zimbabwe, Justin Pearce talks to Zimbabweans who have lost their citizenship, years after their parents or grandparents went there from neighbouring countries.

People living in the bush
The children of non-Zimbabwean parents have lost their citizenship
It takes 10 minutes to walk from the dirt road, to the place in the bush where about 30 people are camped out.

"They didn't know where to put us, because we have no rural home," one woman explains. "Our grandparents came from Malawi."

In the wake of the government's crackdown on illegal buildings and unlicensed traders, Zimbabweans of foreign parentage are finding themselves in a particularly difficult situation.

The seven families living in the bush on the edge of Bulawayo have been there since their homes in the Killarney informal settlement were destroyed by the police in July.

Some people were not even aware they were classified as aliens
Human rights activist
While thousands of Zimbabweans who can trace their ancestry to a Zimbabwean rural village are being transported to the countryside, those whose parents or grandparents were immigrants are left in limbo.

"To say every Zimbabwean has a rural home is not true," says Alouis Chaumba, head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe.

"Some are the grandchildren of people who came here during the Federation."

Migration

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Zimbabwe - then Southern Rhodesia - was part of a federation with Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi).

People from those countries, as well as from neighbouring Mozambique, migrated to seek work - many of them on white-owned farms - in the more developed Southern Rhodesia.

They and their children became integrated into Zimbabwean society, and most acquired Zimbabwean citizenship.

But a change in the citizenship law shortly before the 2002 presidential elections meant that being born in Zimbabwe no longer automatically conferred nationality.

Zimbabweans who had one or both parents born outside the country were reclassified as aliens, unless they formally renounced claims to foreign nationality.

Although most observers believe the law was designed to disenfranchise whites, it also affected the status of Zimbabweans who have roots in other African countries.

"Some people were not even aware they were classified as aliens," one human rights activist says.

The loss of citizenship has made the future still less certain for those who have lost their homes, particularly the younger generation.

Stranded

Among the older people who can remember life in another country, some feel that the best option is to go back to where they came from.

"I have been working here since 1953, first as a domestic cook," says Jose, an elderly Mozambican whose home in Killarney squatter camp was destroyed two months ago.

Elderly man
Only the oldest people still have links with neighbouring countries
"In 1970 the man I worked for left the country. After that I made a living by fishing - and then in 1984 I moved to the dump site, where business was much better."

He is referring to Ngozi Mine, a dumping ground outside Bulawayo where many Killarney residents scratched out a living by recycling rubbish.

"Some of my relatives went back to Chimoio, in Mozambique. I would like to go back - but I don't have the money or a passport," Jose says. "I would be so thankful if I could go back."

But most of the so-called aliens have spent all their lives in Zimbabwe and have lost contact with their roots in neighbouring countries.

No options

"I was born in Harare - my parents are from Mozambique," says Patience, the 23-year-old mother of two young children.

"My father came from Mozambique in 1956."

Man cooking on a fire
The youngest have nowhere else to go
She and her 19-year-old brother had been living in the Porta Farm settlement on the edge of Harare, which the government destroyed in July.

From there, some people were trucked back to villages; others were dumped in the Hopley Farm resettlement area on the opposite side of the capital.

For two weeks, the police denied access to humanitarian agencies who tried to bring in the food and clean water that the settlement lacked.

"For those of us who had no rural home, the only option was to go to Hopley Farm," Patience says.

All names in this piece were changed to protect interviewees.


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