Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
THE Registrar General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede has said his department will not relax the birth registration process as there is a danger of fuelling child trafficking and registering children that are not Zimbabweans.
Officials in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education told Mr Mudede at a registration workshop in Bulawayo on Friday that most children were failing to write examinations because they had no birth certificates.
The officials called for the relaxation of the birth registration process, saying it would go a long way in reducing school dropouts especially in the rural areas.
They said some pupils that needed birth certificates were failing to meet the stringent requirements.
Mr Mudede insisted that the process was already relaxed and therefore there was no need for any changes.
“There are no stringent requirements in the birth registration process, meaning there’s no need to relax the requirements. People should ask and we explain to them how our system works. It’s simple and straight forward. It is our mandate to give out these documents but we have to do it in a proper way.
“There’s a danger of registering children who were not born in Zimbabwe and also fuelling child trafficking. We have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the child was not a victim of child trafficking and that the child is indeed a Zimbabwean,” said Mr Mudede.
He said his department had a constitutional duty to protect the interest of Zimbabweans and avoid issuing birth certificates to people that do not deserve them.
“We have refugees in this country. We’re talking about 10 000 from one camp and we have people who are coming into the country from other countries and they want these birth certificates so that they can get employment.
“These are vital documents that confer Zimbabwean citizenship and should therefore not be fraudulently issued. In places like Kariba we’ve people who are crossing in small boats from Zambia and beyond to stay in the country for good,” said Mr Mudede.
He said if such people are given the important documents, they will compete with Zimbabweans for employment, land and other benefits that are supposed to be for Zimbabweans.
“We know that there are people who are genuine Zimbabweans and they don’t have birth certificates. Our offices are there to help. For those in the rural areas we have traditional leaders and relatives to assist with information to confirm origins of people that need birth certificates.
“The law even allows close relatives to register the children. We’re looking after the interests of Zimbabweans. We can’t afford to relax the requirements,” said Mr Mudede.
He said the law was amended after some children ended up “with many parents and some women claiming maintenance from two or three men.”
“Now the law permits mothers to register their children if the father is not interested. When they normalise their marital issues, we again have a provision to de-register the child and use the surname that they want.
“A mother will not fail to get a birth certificate because the father has denied paternity to that child,” he said.
Mr Mudede said some of the challenges in birth registration were being caused by Zimbabweans who go out of the country and adopt different names.
“We have people who have left the country and some of them have thrown their documents away and adopted pseudo names. They have children born there and brought home with no documents.
“We have to interview such people before issuing any documents. We’ll not just give willy-nilly,” said Mr Mudede.
At the meeting, Mr Mudede said companies and individuals were losing millions of dollars due to fraud involving fake identification documents.
The workshop was also attended by officials from other departments, insurers and lawyers.
Recently the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and Defence called for the relaxation of requirements for acquiring identity registration such as birth certificates.