65yrs after leaving home, Magriti Gama fights for citizenship

10 Oct, 2022 - 00:10 0 Views
65yrs after leaving home, Magriti Gama fights for citizenship

The Chronicle

Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Senior Reporter
IMMIGRATION experts have said the 67-year-old granny who brought 15 relatives to Zimbabwe from Mozambique can claim Zimbabwean citizenship if she proves that she was born in the country.

Ms Magriti Gama, who left the country as a two-year-old in 1957 for Mozambique, was arraigned for contravening immigration laws.

Chronicle recently reported about the bittersweet case of the reunion of the Gama family members which was however short-lived due to a violation of the country’s laws.

While circumstances relating to her arrest are sad, experts said the law requires her to prove that she was born in Zimbabwe.

Ms Gama recently came back from Mozambique with 15 family members including three children, a son-in-law and 10 grandchildren all sired in the neighbouring country.

Born in Zimbabwe in Mzilikazi suburb of Bulawayo, Ms Gama, the eldest of her family, left home to visit her paternal relatives in Mozambique and never came back. Unfortunately, although three of her young siblings can prove that indeed she is part of the family, her parents are now late.

Ms Gama, her three children and an adult son-in-law appeared before Bulawayo Magistrate Nomasiko Ndlovu and were remanded in custody to October 21.

The State argues that on September 23, Gama, her daughters Jenifa Abilio (32), Judita Abilio (27), Jelima Luis (24) and Miguel Americo (33) being aliens were found in Nguboyenja without permits or entry certificates thereby unlawfully entering Zimbabwe.

The 16-member family had set out on a long journey to Zimbabwe in a haulage truck after a Good Samaritan offered to take Ms Gama back home as she had been longing to be reunited with her family for the past 65 years.

Due to a language barrier, she and her family were dropped off in Mbare, Harare where they spent two days and two nights at the terminus with nowhere to go.

A well-wisher eventually managed to get bits of information from the Chewa and Portuguese speaking 16 member-family who gave him contact details for Gama’s younger sister.

Their reunion was however cut short when immigration officials got a tip-off that undocumented foreigners were staying at a house in Nguboyenja leading to their arrest.

The ten children were taken to a local children’s home. Commenting on the issue, the Department of Immigration Head of protocol and public relations Ms Memory Mugwagwa said the registry office is open to intervene in such cases.

“Unfortunately, Ms Gama contravened laws hence the arrest, but if she can prove that she was born in Zimbabwe I know that officials at the registry can help her with documents after interviewing her. The interview can even be done from where she is as long as she can prove that she was born in Zimbabwe,” she said.

Mr Phumulani Mpofu from Trinity Trust said his organisation is trying to help the family access the registry office which can at least help in availing documentation after it is proven that Ms Gama is Zimbabwean.

He said in such circumstances, members of the public should be in a position to prove that they were born in Zimbabwe so that they get birth certificates.

“Ideally Ms Gama was supposed to approach the Zimbabwean Embassy in Mozambique and claim her citizenship before crossing the border illegally. In cases where one decides to come back, they are to approach immigration officers at the border and be granted special permits instead of illegally entering the country,” he said.

“However, we are grateful because we have helped so many old people get birth certificates in the past and with the present thrust on ensuring that every citizen gets identification documents, I am sure something can be done to help the family.”

Mr Mpofu said the process will also require Ms Gama to prove that her parents were Zimbabwean before she can help her children and grandchildren get the documents.

“We are also engaging a lawyer to represent the family, especially Ms Gama who will be of great help to the other members once her issue is settled,” added Mpofu.

“The immigration laws allow for their arrest and detention and it is therefore regrettable that they did not approach the immigration office which is available at all entry ports before coming into the country.”

Ms Gama’s younger sister Ms Ntombezinhle Sibanda, who accommodated the family upon their arrival, said the family wants the issue resolved urgently.

“I am nine years younger than my sister but we are identical and even before our parents died, they did say we have a sibling in Mozambique. My sister shared how difficult life had been in Mozambique which propelled her to come back home with children and grandchildren,” she said.

“We tried visiting her at Mlondolozi and we were told she is a foreigner simply because she came from Mozambique and we are worried she is old, frail, sick and has been through the most back in Mozambique.

She lost two children and a grandchild mysteriously and now that she is arrested, we hope that soon we will get help to ensure that her citizenship is proven.”

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