Applicants are female citizens of Zimbabwe married to alien husbands. Their husbands must renew their residence permits and are thus at risk for deportation. As a result, Applicants and their families are unable to freely establish a permanent and stable family life in Zimbabwe. Applicants therefore sought relief from the High Court, claiming that the refusal to grant their husbands permanent residence violates the freedom of movement provision in Section 22(1) of the Zimbabwe Constitution. They further argued that by denying their husbands permission to permanently live in Zimbabwe, the state equally denied the women’s right to establish a place of residence. The immigration law thus indirectly restricted women’s freedom of movement, as they were required to follow their husbands in order to secure the family bond.
At issue in this case was whether an immigration law that refuses permanent residence to citizens’ alien husbands violate the citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of movement.
The Court decided that by prohibiting alien husbands from living in Zimbabwe, the state effectively restricted the Applicants’ freedom of movement. The very nature of a matrimonial relationship is the partners’ capacity “to found a home, to cohabit, to have children, and to live together as a family unit.” The Court based its decision on the reasoning provided in Dow v. Attorney General. It also was heavily inﬂuenced by the jurisprudence under Article 8(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which establishes the importance of legal respect for the family bond. The Court therefore held that it is a violation of the Constitution for the government to refuse permanent residence status to alien husbands of women who are citizens of Zimbabwe.
This decision was subsequently reinforced in Salem v. Chief Immigration Ofﬁcer and Others (1994) (2) ZLR 287 (S). The Salem Court held that a woman’s constitutional freedom of movement is violated when she must leave the country to follow her husband in order to secure the family’s livelihood. The Court also held that the immigration law is discriminatory and adversely affected those wives who were partially or wholly dependent on their alien husbands for support.