via Justice at last as Supreme Court restores Whitehead’s citizenship status | The Zimbabwean by ZLHR 14.09.13
THE Supreme Court on Friday 13 September 2013 restored the citizenship status of Topper Whitehead, an election expert who had been stripped of his citizenship and forced out of Zimbabwe, seven years ago, after being declared an “undesirable inhabitant”.
It took the perseverance of lawyers at Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights led by Bryant Elliot and Advocate Lewis Uriri, the organisation’s member lawyer, who mounted an appeal in the Supreme Court after the High Court dismissed Whitehead’s initial application.
The Supreme Court which on Friday 13 September 2013 heard Whitehead’s appeal for the restoration of his citizenship status was of the unanimous view that a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth cannot lose his citizenship and that he cannot be declared a prohibited immigrant as had been done by Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi.
Whitehead was forced out of Zimbabwe in 2006 after Mohadi declared him an “undesirable inhabitant” in December 2005.
Supreme Court Judges of Appeal Justices Vernanda Ziyambi, Paddington Garwe and Antoinette Guvava declared that Whitehead is a citizen of Zimbabwe in terms of section 36 of the Constitution.
In 2002, Whitehead helped unearth ghost voters and challenged President Robert Mugabe’s 2002 disputed election victory before being deported.
The State represented by Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar-General of Citizenship opposed the application arguing that Whitehead is a South African citizen and Zimbabwean law does not allow dual citizenship.
However, his lawyers argued that he was forced to take up South African citizenship after being left stateless by the Zimbabwean government, which confiscated his passport as he urgently needed a travel document to conduct business in Zambia and South Africa.
The lawyers argued that in doing this, Whitehead did not do a ‘voluntary act’ but was rather acting out of necessity because he has a right to a nationality and a right to freedom of movement and to earn a living.
In his appeal, Whitehead argued that he is a Zimbabwean citizen by birth. He was born in 1944 to a Zimbabwean mother and a father born in South Africa.
Now based in South Africa, Whitehead committed to renounce his South African citizenship and surrender his South African passport if he once again gets recognised and accepted as a Zimbabwean citizen.
Whitehead got into trouble with authorities after he exposed massive loopholes on the voters’ roll, including ghost voters. He irked them more when he became part of a team of experts in the Movement for Democratic Change legal challenge to Mugabe’s contested 2002 election win.