Zimbabwe, Zambia not twin enough

President Mugabe rightly observed that: "Zambia and Zimbabwe are twins . . . They are geographical twins. The people culturally are one . . . historically therefore we are also one and in terms of our past — immediate past — we are one. We have experienced the same colonial oppression. The British colonized us here and colonized Zambia across the (Zambezi) river."

President Banda like Mr. Trevor Ncube, the Publisher of the Zimbabwe Standard and Independent Newspapers, was born in Zimbabwe and yet the similarities end there.

Mr. Trevor Ncube was reminded that for him to claim Zimbabwean citizenship he had no choice but to renounce in a public and humiliating manner any claim he may have had on Zambian citizenship on account of the fact that his parents were born in Zambia and, therefore, under Zimbabwean citizenship laws he had to choose which side of what President Mugabe describes as twin states he wanted to belong.

On 7 January 2007, I wrote an article published by the Zimbabwe Standard entitled: "What does it mean to be an African citizen" thezimbabwestandard.com in which I argued in relation to Mr. Ncube’s citizenship saga that: "If citizenship can be used as an instrument to intimidate and silence critics then Africa is doomed as a continent. One would have thought that even if Ncube was Zambian, in the interests of African unity, Zimbabwe should welcome him as a fellow citizen. After all, he is born in the country and does not know of any other home except Zimbabwe. That should count for something."

It is significant that unlike Mr. Ncube, President Banda chose to become a citizen of Zambia, the country in which his parents were born.

However, it is ironic that it was President Mugabe who had this to say about President Banda’s right to Zimbabwean citizenship: "President Banda came carrying the banner of oneness with Zimbabwe, carrying the banner of cultural affirmation with Zimbabwe and, of course, carrying his birth certificate to show that he, too, is our citizen."

President Mugabe further said that President Banda, out of all the Presidents of Zambia, had a distinction that he was born in Zimbabwe and was thus a son of the soil. His attachment to Zimbabwe was therefore "sentimental".

During Mr. Ncube’s regrettable ordeal, President Mugabe chose to remain silent while his administration sought to draw a wedge between people who were born in Zimbabwe and those born in the country but whose parents were foreign-born.

President Mugabe’s role as a founding father of post-colonial Zimbabwe is not and will never be in dispute.

What is debatable is whether the founding fathers ever posed to reflect on the challenges of nation state building and what kind of Zimbabwe they wanted to see.

Nation state building like any enterprise requires a sound and firm foundation.

On 10 December 2005, Ncube had his passport taken away by the government of non other than President Mugabe, in what was described as the first application of restrictive press laws.

The passport was only returned to Mr. Ncube after the seizure was exposed to be illegal but it did not stop the government of Zambia’s so-called twin brother from attempting to strip him of his citizenship on the basis that his father was born in Zambia.

It is significant that Zimbabwean law does not allow foreigners to own newspapers.

For people who may have forgotten about Mr. Ncube, they would be entitled to take President Mugabe’s utterances on President Banda’s entitlement to Zimbabwean citizenship as not hypocritical and self serving given that President Banda is a known supporter of President Mugabe’s policies.

Surely, any founding father’s mind would have been seized with key foundational principles that are necessary to advance national interest and economic progress.

A nation state is a product of citizens and has to be underpinned by a social contract.

Obviously to President Mugabe, President Banda belongs to different class of Zimbabwean born nationals with foreign-born parents than people like Ncube notwithstanding the fact that Zimbabwe is a republic.

It was remarkable that President Banda evidently oblivious to the adverse impact of Zimbabwe’s citizenship laws on people like him said Cde Mugabe was a great son and patriot of Africa, adding that with time, the people the world over were going to understand that the Zimbabwean leader had a vision, that of empowering his people.

If President Mugabe is a great son and patriot of Africa as observed by President Banda then how on earth would he explain the dignity subjected to people like Ncube in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

Surely any great patriot of Africa would be the change that he wants to see and the first change ought to deal with the question of identity, citizenship and nation state.

Although President Banda was hypocritically referred to as a "son of the soil" merely because he was born in Zimbabwe like so many Zimbabweans, it is remarkable that such a description is only reserved for selected individuals.

A white person, for example, born in Zimbabwe under the Zimbabwe that President Mugabe wants to see, can never acquire the title: "son of the soil".

The choice of the concept of "son of the soil" to describe Zimbabweans exposes the shallowness of the foundational principles that informed the creation and operation of the post-colonial state.

If birth can entitle President Banda to unqualified and unfettered Zimbabwean citizenship, then surely people like Kuruneri and Ncube should suffer no impediment in post-colonial Zimbabwe.

However, since the formation of the inclusive government, only the Deputy Prime Minister, Prof. Mutambara, has added his voice to the validity of the laws that prohibit dual citizenship in Zimbabwe given that the experience of independence has tended to undermine the value of Zimbabwean citizenship to the extent that many Zimbabwean born people like President Banda have found it more beneficial to be excluded from the post-colonial social contract by acquiring the citizenship of other states.

The "One Africa" project may be undermined less by the conspiracy of non-Africans but by the actions of the very people that hypocritically purport to uphold its values and principles.

Africa should belong to all who choose to live in it and anyone who decides to adopt Africa with its majority black people as a home is effectively advancing the interests of the majority.

I have often observed that anyone who builds a home in one’s yard must love the host so much otherwise it would make no sense for anyone to choose to acquire citizenship in a country that insults or ridicules one’s contribution.

Citizenship is not just a right but carries with it obligations among which include a contribution to the income of the nation state.

Using this principle, it is critical that the treatment and language used to describe President Banda be a cause for Zimbabweans to pause and think about the true meaning of citizenship and what has to change for Africa to move forwards.

If President Banda is Zimbabwean and can be described, as a "son of the soil", should Roy Bennett, Eddie Cross and millions others born in Zimbabwe not be described in a similar manner.

The thinking on citizenship among Africans is regrettably not different from President Mugabe’s.

At the superficial level, any black person is regarded as a "son of the soil" but when one digs deeper this is rarely the case.

Zambia and Zimbabwe have produced two Africans, for example, President Banda and Ncube but instead of being regarded by President Mugabe as twins, Ncube had no choice but to renounce his claim to Zambian citizenship in order for him to continue to call himself a Zimbabwean.

Mutumwa Mawere’s weekly column is published weekly on The Zimbabwe Mail.com.