By Barbrah Musamba Chama Mumba
In the last three decades there has been an increase of Zambians migrating abroad due to various factors.
Definition of Dual Citizenship
To explain what dual citizenship is; it is simply having citizenship of two countries, in this case being a Zambian citizen and that of another country.
There has been a cry mainly by those living abroad for the recognition of dual citizenship because the Zambian constitution does not provide for this.
The moment a Zambian acquires citizenship of another country then that person no longer becomes Zambian. The current constitution does not provide for one to re-acquire the Zambian citizenship once relinquished.
History and Reasons
I will give some history of how some Zambians have found themselves in different countries around the world.
There are so many reasons as to why Zambians leave the country and seek to live abroad but mainly it has been for economic reasons.
At one time when Zambia’s economy was not doing well such that essential commodities were very scarce and political tolerance was none existent, those that could not bear the situation decided to leave the country.
During the 1980s and 90s, the first bulk of economic migrants were teachers that left the country to neighbouring Botswana. They were followed by accountants, doctors and nurses. A few other professionals joined in the mass economic migration.
Some Zambians left the country to acquire higher education and upon acquiring their qualifications, they could not find work when they returned back as the Zambian economy reached rock-bottom in the 80s and 90s.
Some of those that were affected were those who benefited from the Mpelembe scholarship project that the UNIP government embarked on in the 1980s.
Unfortunately, when some of these highly skilled Zambians graduated, the government could not offer them jobs as the mines were not viable at the time.
Most of those that were on the Mpelembe project attended very good universities in Australia, Canada, UK and USA and have remained in the respective countries whilst others have migrated to South Africa. A few have other have gone back to Zambia in recent times.
The late 80s also saw the emergence of the International Youth Travel on which some Zambians went to the UK and decided to stay on after the tour.
The other group of Zambians living abroad was that of children of ministers, government officials, parastatal heads and businessmen and women who were taken to schools abroad but decided to stay on after completing their education.
The 1990s and 2000s, a period of rapid integration across borders saw another group of individuals who by their own initiative of course with increased communication technologies decided to go abroad to better their lives as Zambia was deemed not to offer any hope for those that could not find jobs and wanted to provide for their families.
The period had a very high demand for nurses and carers in the western world and this attracted many nurses from developing countries and Zambia was no exception to this.
Some Zambians that left the country did so for professional reasons to better their careers and some for the reason that they would get better economic benefits from developed countries.
There are some careers that do not offer economic benefits or are unappreciated in Zambia like those of scientists. These people would want to work where their skills are appreciated.
Some Zambians live abroad because of other social factors like marriages. There are some Zambians who have married nationals of other countries and have children born in other countries.
These children can only be citizens of one country because the Zambian constitution does not provide for such despite them having parents from two different countries of which one of them is Zambian.
When apartheid was abolished in South Africa, this resulted in many Zambians trekking down south for better jobs.
As can be seen there is an array of Zambians living abroad. Many of these of these Zambians have adapted to the way of living in their host countries because of the number of years they have lived in the respective countries.
At the same time they do not want to lose touch with their roots. These Zambians have had children who are brought up in these countries.
Zambians living abroad would want to give the best education and health services to their children and for themselves of which are very scarce in Zambia if not expensive.
Most of the host countries that Zambians live in now require that an individual should be a citizenship of that country in order to access certain services, if not a citizen then one may not be able to access those services.
Some of the services include education, finance, health and jobs.
With very limited job opportunities in Zambia, the government should not cheat themselves that all those in the diaspora should be enticed back home to work or engage in some form of economic activity.
The truth is, this will never ever happen that all Zambians living abroad would go back home at once.
Instead the government should consider Zambians living abroad as another constituency.
It is a cycle that once one’s economic usefulness has been achieved in the western world or abroad then that person would consider getting back to Zambia. Zambia does not have a base to accommodate all Zambians living abroad.
Some will come back and others will remain abroad at any given time.
Zambia benefits from those living abroad as these people tend to remit funds to friends and relatives to help in their livelihood thus easing the government of some social responsibility.
Remittances from people who are living abroad, is an economy on its own right. Zambia as a country benefits through foreign currency remittances.
There are so many countries that have formalised the issue of remittance and the government could generate revenue for social projects through this sector.
There is an aspect of human resource development. Zambians living abroad who are citizens of those countries they live in have access to quality free education that can enhance their skills development which Zambia as a country could benefit from.
Children of Zambians living abroad go to very good schools and are developed to be useful to society. It is these that could help the country in future if the government can recognise them and woe them into the country.
Usually those that work in developed countries maintain high ethics when it comes to work and do not tolerate corrupt or illegal practices. These people could help the country in reducing corruption if co-opted into the country’s governance or mainstream economic activity.
Most Zambians living abroad are engaged in some kind of business or some property development in Zambia. This is a direct benefit to the economy of the country as it helps growth and eases unemployment.
Zambians that acquire citizenship of other countries enhance their career prospects in those countries if they acquired citizenship of the respective country.
Being a citizen of certain countries eases the movement of individuals from one country to another as citizens of certain countries do not face visa restrictions when visiting most western countries.
Government’s argument against dual nationality.
So far I have only heard two reasons as to why the PF government does not want dual citizenship. This was also explained by President Michael Sata when he addressed Zambians living in the United Kingdom on one of his visits to the UK.
One explanation was that of loyalty and the other was that the fear of criminals abusing dual nationality.
The very fact that a person does not want to do away with his or her Zambian citizenship shows the person’s loyalty to the country.
The aspects of criminals abusing the privilege are farfetched. There are very few instances that Zambians who live abroad have committed offences in Zambia.
The numbers are very minimal to have a blanket view and if such were the case there is a way of engaging the other country to bring the culprits to book.
Besides, it is a wake-up call for government to think of how best Zambians perceived to be involved in criminal activities could be managed.
In this era of globalisation, Zambia has more to benefit from the current wave rather than to express fears before attempts are even made.
This concept of single citizenship is becoming weak each day as countries get globalised through trade and other transactions.
Thus, to hold on to old views is to show double standards in whatever government is trying to achieve because on the one hand, treaties are being signed that necessitate labour migration while on the hand, hindrances are being created smartly by opposing the duality of labour. Zambia has more to lose than it is trying to protect!
The fact that a person that acquires another citizenship should be branded a criminal because the Zambian constitution criminalises a person that acquires citizenship of another country needs redressing.
Many Zambians have actually acquired citizenships of other countries but still maintain the Zambian passport.
As can be seen in most cases people are seeking to better their lives by exercising their right of movement, the world today is one global village.
Human resource as is trade have no boundaries in this modern era, restricting the Zambian only hurts the Zambian economy.