Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
NEARLY 50 percent of pupils at a school in Matobo District in Matabeleland South province have no birth certificates, a problem affecting most children in Matabeleland region.
Parliament has since challenged Government departments to eliminate stateless citizens by ensuring access to national documents. MPs said financial challenges, migration, natural disasters and the 1980s Gukurahundi disturbances are among the reasons why some people do not have national documents. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services said it was disheartening that in one of its field visits, it discovered that 300 pupils out of 700 at a school in Matabeleland South had no birth certificates.
The committee’s chairperson Retired Brigadier-General Levi Mayihlome on Thursday moved a motion for the country to implement adopted international conventions to end statelessness in the country. The committee worked closely with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry on the issue of statelessness in the country. Rtd Brig-Gen Mayihlome said some of the stateless citizens are former immigrants who came into the country from neighbouring Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique in the 1950s.
He said stateless citizens are deprived of basic human rights and urged Government to address the issue before 2024 in line with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees which Zimbabwe is a signatory to. “A number of challenges are associated with acquisition of birth certificates and the registration of deaths such as travel costs, distance, administrative processes, lack of documentation of parents especially the mother, lack of information of the procedures in acquiring the birth documentation.
“The lack of birth registration and documentation leaves children at the risk of statelessness hence denying them the rights to access education, health care and other services,” he said. “Migration of parents to neighbouring countries leaves some children in the care of grandparents or guardians.
As a result, children fail to get birth certificates. On the other hand parents of children born out of the country fail to provide birth records making it difficult for children to get primary documents. Internal disturbances and natural disasters, the classic case being the 1980s disturbances in Matabeleland and the Midlands, and the natural disasters like cyclone Idai have also contributed to the problem of people living without national documents.”
Rtd Brig-Gen Mayihlome said his committee was stunned when it visited a school in Matobo district, Matabeleland South and discovered that almost half of the school pupils had no birth certificates.
“We have cases of children born of single parents or out of wedlock and the mother has no documents making it very difficult for children to acquire primary documents.When we visited Halale Primary school in Kezi we were told that out of 700 pupils, 300 had no birth certificates, including seven from one family,” he said. Rtd Brig-Gen Mayihlome said stateless citizens have no right to property, political rights and what is worse is that they can pass the statelessness to their children.
He said Government should introduce a waiver on all hurdles to ensure that stateless citizens get requisite national documents. “The way forward is to assess and conduct a one-time amnesty and exercise to address issues of undocumented persons living in the country, particularly in those provinces that were visited by internal conflicts in the 1980s as well as migrant labour,” he said.
President Mnangagwa has pledged to address some of the problems caused by Gukurahundi including the issue of access to national documents for Gukurahundi victims. The President has shown that he is committed to have frank discussions on the issue and has since held a number of meetings in Matabeleland to find lasting solutions and promote national [email protected]