Human Rights Commission concludes Mat’land documents hearing

Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter 

THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) has identified Gukurahundi, corruption, poverty and negative attitudes from officials as some of the reasons contributing to people in Matabeleland region failing to access national documents.

This emerged yesterday at the end of a five-day ZHRC hearing into why members of the public were failing to access national documents such as birth certificates, national identity cards, passports, and death certificates.

Addressing a media briefing after the completion of the public hearings at a city hotel, ZHRC chairperson Dr Elasto Mugwadi said negative attitudes from civil servants were also contributing to members of the public failing to obtain the requisite national documents.

He said children born outside the country and those taken outside the country using cross border transporters (omalayitsha) are among the worst affected by lack of documentation. 

Dr Mugwadi said not having a birth certificate was the most prevalent challenge. 

 “The main challenges people are facing in accessing national documents are as follows: challenges related to the Gukurahundi disturbances evident in the deliberate withholding of vital information, poverty which results in lack of money to travel to obtain identity documents and pay registration fees and prohibitive citizenship fees pegged at $5 000, negative attitudes and lack of customer care or human rights based service delivery by staff at Government departments such as the Registrar General’s Office and Department of Social Welfare which discourages people from accessing services/documents when they need them,” said Dr Mugwadi.

“We’ve children born outside the country, mostly in South Africa and sent with ‘omalayitsha’ without birth confirmation records. For some children, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that parents would have assumed different local names for easy residence in South Africa and parents’ whereabouts are unknown, which is closely related to the migration of many Zimbabweans into the diaspora.”

He said inconsistencies at the Registrar General’s Office on requirements to be brought forward by applicants was another factor resulting in some people giving up on getting documentation. 

Dr Mugwadi said some laws were too rigid and some cases need to be attended in their peculiarity as brought forward by applicants.

He said the commission during its five-day hearings received 624 submissions from people and organisations resident in Matabeleland region.

Dr Mugwadi said women are the worst affected by the national documents issue.

 “The total number of witnesses who appeared before the inquiry panel from 21 October 2019 to the end of the public hearings in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province is 107 constituted as follows female 79,4 percent, males 20,6 percent and persons with disabilities 1,2 percent. The documents in regard to which the submissions were made were as follows birth certificates 62 percent, national identity, 23,2 percent, passports 6,5 percent, death certificates 6,3 percent and citizenship 1,9 percent,” said Dr Mugwadi.

He said the commission which conducted hearings in the presence of officials from the Registrar General’s Office managed to score some immediate successes as 28 people obtained birth certificates and IDS during the public hearings.

The ZHRC chairperson said the national documentation issue was also becoming cross generational for some families as it affects grandparents, parents and their children. 

Dr Mugwadi said this leads to victims failing to access national social services which is an infringement of their rights.

“The impact of the lack of documentation on the enjoyment of the human rights by people in Bulawayo Metropolitan Province includes but not limited to the following; failure to continue education, lack of access to social services such as food aid, employment, Government aid and failure to open bank accounts, failure to access health services, rising of statelessness and people at risk of being stateless which has a negative effect on self-esteem and dignity,” said Dr Mugwadi.

He said the commission will continue working to address the national documentation problem so that it achieves its targets that by 2020 the country would not be having any “stateless citizen.”—@nqotshili

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