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Prominent Zimbabwe Investor in Court Over Tough Citizenship Laws

One of Zimbabwe's richest and most controversial businessmen, John Bredenkamp, was in court Friday defending himself against allegations he violated tough citizenship laws. Bredenkamp, who invested heavily in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, now faces up to two years in jail on the charges.

When he was first arrested in July, the state press claimed Bredenkamp, who has business interests in several countries, was wanted for allegations of massive fraud. When the case got to court, the only charge was under the Immigration Act, which does not allow Zimbabwe citizens to hold any other passport.

The court heard Bredenkamp has been stripped of his Zimbabwe citizenship, because the government found out he had a South African passport.

Bredenkamp told the court he has never used the South African passport in Zimbabwe. He said he has only used it to enter or leave South Africa.

His lawyers told the court that Zimabwbe's citizenship laws could not apply outside the country.

State prosecutor Fungai Nyahunzvi said the citizenship laws were plain, and that no one with a Zimbabwe passport could also use another country's passport, without permission from the government.

He said the South African government confirmed it had issued Bredenkamp a passport, and had also provided information to Zimbabwe police that he had used it 65 times.

Bredenkamp owns several businesses and a large farm close to Harare. The farm is one of the most densely populated wildlife conservancies.

He is one of about 10 percent of white farmers who have been allowed to remain on their land since President Robert Mugabe began seizing white-owned commercial farms six years ago.

Magistrate Tapiwa Godzi said he would hand down judgment next Friday.