Tendai Rupapa-Senior Reporter
FIRST LADY Auxillia Mnangagwa yesterday held a first of its kind heart-to-heart interactive session with the mixed race community during which she inclined an ear to the challenges they face, and proffered tangible solutions where possible.
This comes amid concerns that the mixed race community had become reclusive and was not participating in the country’s mainstream activities, hence the First Lady’s move to engage them.
As part of the interactive session, the First Lady was assisted by experts from various ministries to provide appropriate answers to concerns raised.
The group’s director of operations, Mrs Maureen Charles-Mparadzi, highlighted the identity crisis that members of her community face.
“We have a major issue concerning our identity. The 00 at the end of our IDs excludes us from access to land, and some employment opportunities. If we could have the 00 addressed because 00 is not unique to the mixed race community, it’s actually a national issue and many people are crying about this identity crisis because I will tell you my personal experience.
“I was born in Zimbabwe, my mother is South African but when I went to apply for a passport, I had my passport all the time. When my passport expired in 2011, I was told to renounce my rights to South Africa. I had to go to the South African embassy to renounce my rights to South Africa and when I went back to the Passport Office, I was made a citizen of Zimbabwe at the age of 62 whereas I feel having been born in Zimbabwe, I should have become a Zimbabwean at birth. This identity is a big issue for us. We want to be indigenous Zimbabweans; we want to be Zimbabweans first. We do not want to be on the sidelines always complaining. Now that our mother the First Lady is here today, we have faith that she will ensure that our challenges are addressed through the relevant channels. We want to thank her for coming up with the idea to engage us,” she said.
In response, Mr Ben Nkala, who is the deputy registrar responsible for civil registration in the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, said plans were afoot to address the issues raised.
“The ministry is of the view that this 00 point is not justified. It was introduced during the colonial era for the interests of the Government that was ruling at the time. It is long overdue and must be removed. We are in the process of dealing with that right now. Our ministry and honourable minister of Home Affairs and the permanent secretary have prepared a document that they are presenting to Cabinet so that we are authorised to proceed with the changes that are due to the mixed race.
“On the issue of citizenship, I want to assure the nation as a whole that people who are born in Zimbabwe, who are Zimbabwean citizens by birth under the current constitution do not have to renounce any other citizenship in order to be issued with Zimbabwe passports. It was in the previous Constitution where we would have one citizenship which we call mono citizenship. You had only to have one citizenship so if you had any other citizenship that you were entitled to, you were then asked to renounce that citizenship as explained Mrs Mparadzi. Under the current constitution, if you are a citizen by birth you do not have to renounce any other citizenship that you are entitled to. You can only apply for the Zimbabwean passport and will be issued and there are no conditions that you must renounce any other citizenship that you had,” said Mr Nkala.
Mr Enerst Chimboza, from the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development, gave an overview of his ministry’s work and the projects they had to offer.
“As a ministry we have a department that focus more on women economic empowerment. Under this department, this is where we promote women’s economic activities, so we promote women doing various businesses in order to sustain their families. We also look at community development where we look at both men and women.
“We promote community projects as well which involve men and women. As Harare metropolitan province we train you entrepreneurship, how to start a business, how to generate a business idea, how to expand your business. We also do entrepreneurship development where we impart skills.
“We have a women development fund from the Government aimed at promoting existing and viable women’s projects. We also have community development fund meant to promote community projects. Our offices are open for you please come through,” said Mr Enerst Chimboza.
In her remarks, Amai Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe as a nation had been blessed with people of different ethnic groups and races and its Constitution upheld the right to life, equality and non-discrimination to all.
“Our cultural values are being promoted here in our country and I urge you to emulate this so that the traditional norms and values are adhered to and we can all be responsible citizens of our country. We need to ensure that our cultural values which had been eroded by the western culture are restored back.
“Basing on what I witnessed today and what I heard as I listened attentively to issues presented, you are a community indeed involved in the socio economic activities and some of you have successful businesses which are thriving. You are part of the Zimbabwean community and our President, His Excellency, Dr E.D. Mnangagwa embraces all of us regardless of origin, background or race. Indeed, the issues you raised are of importance as you have shown willingness to participate in the mainstream economy and contribute towards national development,” she said.
The Zimbabwe 2017 inter-census demographic survey, which used the same ethnic origin categorisation as the 2012 census, the First Lady said, reported a mixed race population of 18,484. This was primarily an urban population which has a young age structure, with 41,9 percent in the 0–14 age group and 38.3 percent in the 15–49 age group.
“These demographic statistics show the inclusivity our Government has as such statistics assist us in planning and executing development initiatives in a manner taking care of all races and ethnic groups in our country. The classification of race and ethnicity by the State is a common way to organise and make sense of populations and this is not unique only to Zimbabwe but it is the trend worldwide, from the national census to identity cards and household surveys.
“As populations have grown, diversified, and become increasingly transnational and mobile, such demographic statistics which are inclusive help in addressing inequalities,” she said.
Significant changes for the mixed race community, the First Lady said, had occurred in Zimbabwe and in this new dispensation, continued to occur as witnessed by today’s conference.
“I have heard all the issues and the concerns that you raised and to the relevant ministries, I implore you to consider this for actioning through the appropriate channels. Let me urge all of you to remain united as a nation for together we can withstand the challenges we have, together we can prevail and together we can achieve our country’s Vision 2030 of an upper middle income economy.
“I have been going around with the Gota/Nhanga/Ixhiba programme training our children hunhu/ubuntu. I also want you to prepare for the same programme and I will come. I want our children to grow morally upright. I also had a traditional cook-out competition which you did not participate in. I am not leaving anyone behind and would also want to see you participating in all programmes. I am a mother who does not leave some of her children behind. I am happy we have now started this journey together,” the First lady said.
A member of the mixed race community, Mr Luke Davis, said yesterday’s conference with the First Lady had opened a way forward for his community.
“My sincere gratitude goes to the First Lady of the Republic of Zimbabwe. She has displayed exemplary motherhood because she has in her programme included her children of mixed race. You know in any family children differ and they have special needs and a good mother will always attend to the special needs of a particular child. Today Amai came to attend to the special needs of this mixed race community which has never been accorded this attention ever in the history of Zimbabwe. She is indeed a true mother of the nation,” he said.
Mrs Ellen Frankis-Muchena weighed in saying: “I am very grateful to the mother of our nation Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa on this historic event. We are happy she invited us to this conference where she met the marginalised community known as the coloured community, something which has never happened. We are happy that Amai listened to our concerns which she will take further to the relevant authorities. She actually came with people from different ministries who quickly answered some of our questions swiftly. She has opened doors for us and we cannot thank her enough. Going forward, we promise to move with other Zimbabweans.”
Mrs Mparadzi added that she was thankful that most of the issues she raised were addressed.
All those who attended yesterday’s programme were given food hampers, courtesy of the First Lady.
The interactive session, which was held in Arcadia, was held in strict observance of Covid-19 protocols of masking up, washing hands and maintaining social distance.