In the middle of a voter registration blitz ahead of the 2023 national elections, victims of the Gukurahundi genocide are finding it hard to access national identity documents — and consequently might be left out of the imminent plebiscite.
Charity Ncube (35), a villager in Pupu area, Lupane doubts if she will ever obtain a birth certificate.
“My father disappeared and our homestead was burnt. My mother later in life tried to register me with the civil registry office, but to no avail until her death,” Ncube says.
In April this year, the central government rolled out a mobile civil registry exercise to issue birth certificates, death certificates, and national identity documents.
It is for free.
But Washington Sibanda says the central government must go further and scrap many other requirements especially in areas where people were affected by Gukurahundi.
“One witness is enough to testify that I am a Gukurahundi victim, and deserve an identity document instead of asking for affidavits and death certificates of our parents who were killed by the Fifth Brigade,” Sibanda says.
Victims of Gukurahundi have not been compensated, or given an opportunity to exhume and rebury their loved ones for closure and healing.
Secretary General of the Matabeleland based pressure group Ibhetshu LikaZulu, Mbuso Fuzwayo, who has been vocal on finding closure to the mass killings, says the mobile registration exercise is welcome.
But he also raises concern over some of the requirements which he says will see Gukurahundi victims remain stateless.
“I met some woman in Tsholotsho and she was saying the registrar people were telling her that she must bring her father’s death certificate which she does not have,” says Fuzwayo.
The Birth and Death Registration Act of Zimbabwe requires one to bring a death certificate in case one of the parents or both are deceased.
“The requirements make it difficult for victims especially those who lost both parents; some are now forced to use other people’s surnames. The government must issue a statutory instrument to relax some of their requirements because it is now affecting secondary victims,” says Fuzwayo.
A 2019 enquiry by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in Matabeleland region says many people failing to access identity documents are Gukurahundi victims.
The constitution says every citizen has a right to have a birth certificate, national identity card and a passport.
A report compiled by Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) titled: Cursed with Statelessness: Consequences of Deprivation of National Identification Documents notes the challenges faced by undocumented Gukurahundi victims.
“If nothing is done fast to assist them to acquire birth certificates, passports and national identity documents the curse of statelessness will affect more generations,” ZPP says in its report.
Politician Tapson Nganunu Sibanda in Tsholotsho says the central government has to address the issue of identity documents for Gukurahundi victims.
“People are still traumatised. What needs to be done also is that an independent commission of enquiry has to be put in place and the perpetrators put to account for their heinous deeds,” says Sibanda.
Meanwhile in 2020, President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised to facilitate easy access to the identity documents after meeting traditional leaders and civic groups from Matabeleland.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin