Thandeka Moyo, Chronicle Reporter
A 53-year-old man from Robert Sinyoka in Bulawayo is struggling to get birth certificates for his 11 children who cannot access any official service in the country as they do not have identity particulars.
Their mother who also did not have a birth certificate or an identity card, died last year and was buried at her rural home in Masvingo.
Her family said they could only help the man get the documents for his children aged between 8 and 24 years if he pays at least $1 800 towards the bride price.
Nine of the children failed to proceed beyond Grade Seven because they are not captured in the country’s records system.
The children grew up in grinding poverty sharing one room with their parents.
The Chronicle yesterday caught up with Mr Flexen Siziba in a bushy area near Khami Prison where he has been gathering firewood for sale in the past 24 years. He said he can make a $1 in three days from selling firewood and uses the money to buy food for three children who are still under his care.
“I met my wife 24 years ago and when she died last year, we had 11 children. Unfortunately we could not get birth certificates for them because she did not have identify documents including a birth certificate,” said Mr Sziba.
He said he had been advised to obtain a death certificate for his wife which he could use to obtain the birth cetificates for his children but his in-laws said they could only assist after he has paid lobola.
“My in-laws are demanding three cows or $1 800 since I had not paid anything towards lobola when my wife died,” he said.
Mr Siziba said he was now staying with his three boys including his youngest child who is doing Grade Three at Robert Sinyoka Primary School.
“The other boy is at home doing nothing as he failed to access his Form Four results due to lack of identity documents. Only two of my children proceeded to Form Four,” he said.
According to Mr Siziba, acquiring birth certificates for his children will enable them to seek employment.
“Two of my daughters aged 24 and 19 are already married with children as they too could not do much in life. They are not in a position to help me fend for the family and we are really struggling to get food. We share a room in Robert Sinyoka and it’s tough to raise $15 which I pay as rent monthly. I walk more than 10km to farms to fetch firewood which I sell and have often times been subjected to assault by prison officers and rangers for poaching firewood. I have to poach at night because really I do not have any other means of survival.”
Mr Siziba appealed to well-wishers to help him raise at least $17 so he can collect birth records for four children which are at Pelandaba Clinic.
“Trinity (a children’s rights organisation) has helped me access birth records for three of my children who were born at Mpilo Central Hospital. The rest were born at home and I will need their mother’s death certificate to obtain birth certificates.
“I cannot even raise money to go to Chidorido Village where my wife comes from. Some relatives in Filabusi, Insiza and Plumtree are helping in taking care of other children but I know that their future is doomed with no birth certificates.”
Mr Phumulani Mpofu from Trinity yesterday said Mr Siziba needs urgent help.
“His children are at risk of failing to access several socio-economic services and rights which include health, education, justice and social grants. His plight is made worse by the fact that even though he himself is documented the mother to his 11 children died without any form of documentation,” says Mr Mpofu.
He said their only chance to be registered is through their mother’s death certificate which Mr Siziba is yet to obtain.
“We understand that in order to help him register the death of his wife her relatives have invited him to their rural home apparently to discuss the socio-cultural issues around his marriage to the late and we assume that upon a successfully engagement, his in-laws will dispatch a family representative to assist him register the death and get the required death certificate,” he said.
Mr Mpofu says the cooperation of his in-laws will unlock the future of the children.
“We applaud the Government for the waiver of fees during the 90-day mobile registration period but we encourage the Government to make this waiver permanent to reduce the number of undocumented children.
“We also call upon the Government to relax the requirements of birth registration and allow fathers and paternal relatives to register children. Insisting on the presence or representation of the mother disadvantages children in broken families and children whose mothers are not registered.”
About 2,4 million people in Zimbabwe do not have birth certificates.
A majority of undocumented citizens are aged between zero and 17 years.
According to the 2016-2018 Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy rural areas had a higher proportion (45.7 percent) of children aged 0-17 years with no birth certificates compared to urban areas with 21.7 percent.