Harare Metropolitan Province Public Hearings of The National Inquiry on Access to Documentation

General Information on the National Inquiry

  • This media briefing is intended to give highlights of the proceedings of the five (5) days of the public hearings on the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Harare Metropolitan Province held here at Cresta Jameson from 18-22 November 2019.
  • As indicated on opening day, the National Inquiry is focusing on five (5) national documents, which are: a) Birth Certificate (b) National Identity Card (c) Passport (d) Death Certificate, and (e) Citizenship certificate.
  • Submissions were received from the following areas: Mbare, Chitungwiza, Hatcliffe, Highfield, Ruwa, Epworth, Mabvuku, Tafara, Southlea Park, Stoneridge, Bellapaise, Caledonia, Crest Breeders, Mufakose, Butler Farm, Dzivarasekwa, Hopley and the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services.
  • In addition, the Provincial Registrar’s Office for Harare Metropolitan Province, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services, Civil Society Organisations, and the Department of Social Welfare appeared before the Panel of Inquiry.
  • The Commission is heartened by the fact that as at 1500 hours on 22 November 2019, 33 birth certificates 37 IDs and 2 Death Certificates had been issued. For this, the Commission is truly grateful to the RG’s Department.

The preliminary findings of the Harare Metropolitan Province Public Hearings are as follows:

The preliminary statistical findings received in Harare Metropolitan Province as at 22 November 2019:
Total number of submissions from all the areas – 1,287
Individual submissions – 1,255
Number of stakeholder submissions (Civil Society, Ward Councillors and Government agencies) – 32

The main challenges people in Harare Province are facing in accessing national documents are as follows:

  • Whereabouts of parents, especially mothers unknown, leaving the grandparents or relatives to take care of the undocumented grandchildren. It is a fact that the presence of the mother is compulsory in the acquisition of a birth certificate. We had a typical case of a 61-year old Dzivarasekwa widow who presented evidence on behalf of eight undocumented grandchildren who were left in her custody by three of her children. There is also the case of a 43-year old man whose wife went to Swaziland in search of greener pastures in 2007 and left six (6) undocumented children in the custody of the husband who alone cannot register the children.
  • Inconsistent information on the necessary requirements by the RG’s Department which often makes applicants to travel back and forth unnecessarily and therefore demotivating them in the process.
  • Lack of awareness of registration requirements as a result of inadequate resources for citizen awareness and education by the RG’s offices.
  • Negative attitudes, and lack of customer care or human rights based service delivery by staff at Government Departments such as the RG’s Office which discourage people from accessing services/documents when they need them, resulting in the Commission proposing the retraining of the RG personnel to suit the new dispensation ethos.
  • Financial constraints in obtaining citizenship by people of foreign origin because of failure to raise the mandatory $5000,00 statutory fee.
  • Poverty which results in lack of money to travel to obtain identity documents and pay registration fees. For example, the cost of travelling to the RG’s Office to obtain a Birth Certificate, ID and Death Certificate is often more than the fees payable for the document being applied for.
  • Difficulty in obtaining replacement/lost documents from the RG’s Department.
  • Orphaned children where both deceased parents were undocumented as was the case of a 26-year old lady whose parents died a long time ago and her maternal aunt is unwilling to assist her, allegedly because applicant does not respect her.
  • Grandparents’ failure to obtain documents on behalf of their grandchildren resulting in generations of people with the same challenge. One such case brought before the Panel of Inquiry is that of a 62-year old Mabvuku woman who was struggling to register her 19-year old granddaughter. The granddaughter was abandoned as a toddler by her parents who went to South Africa and never came back.
  • Cultural barriers, for example, maternal relatives’ reluctance to co-operate with paternal relatives to register relatives’ children citing non-payment of lobola as in the case of one Hatcliffe witness who appeared before the Inquiry panel.
  • Rigid laws which do not cater for peculiar cases which do not fit into the legal framework in place. An example, is the complicated case of 87-year old Gogo Tauro who appeared before the Panel while being accompanied by her equally frail 75-year old friend. Gogo Tauro is having challenges to register her 33-year old daughter because the RG’s office insists that she cannot possibly be the mother of the child since she was 54 years old when she had the child. RG’s office considers that it is impossible for the woman to be the mother as she could not have had a child at that age.

Identified challenges in Harare Metropolitan Province are classified as follows:

  • Registration issues
  • Socio-Cultural norms
  • Economic issues e.g. transport costs
  • Distance to access services
  • Negative official attitudes

The impact of lack of documentation on the enjoyment of human rights by people in Harare Metropolitan Province includes but not limited to the following;

  • Failure by those without birth certificates and IDs including prisoners to continue with education.
  • Exclusion from participation of affected pupils in extra-curricular activities at school such as sport.
  • Lack of access to social services such as food aid, employment, Government aid and failure to open bank/cell-phone accounts.
  • Failure to access pension benefits
  • Disenfranchisement in terms of voting.
  • Challenges to access passports to travel beyond the country’s borders for various reasons, including engaging in economic activities such as cross border trade, or access specialist health services.
  • Failure to access health services.
  • Creation of generational challenges in acquiring national documents.
  • Rising numbers of people at risk of being stateless.
  • Negative effect on self-esteem and dignity.
  • Difficulties in obtaining deceased relative’s documents from relevant Government offices.

Conclusion

The findings of the National Inquiry in Harare Metropolitan Province, like in all the other provinces, confirm the challenges being experienced by a significant number of citizens in accessing identity documents. The Commission is grateful for the co-operation of the Registrar General’s Office whose officers were in attendance throughout the public hearings to assist people on the spot by issuing some identity documents to witnesses attending the public hearings, the Provincial Social Welfare Officer, Mrs. Susan Ngani who availed herself and officers throughout the public hearings to assist witnesses on the help desk. Further, the Commission is grateful to the Judicial Service Commission for availing staff and equipment to the public hearings and all other stakeholders who supported the Commission in conducting this public hearing. I would also like to take this opportunity to commend fellow Commissioners and ZHRC Secretariat for their commitment and dedication to the National Inquiry process. Finally, let me take this opportunity to thank the media for partnering the ZHRC and covering the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation public hearings in Harare Metropolitan Province up to today.

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC)