Reflections of the National Inquiry on access to documentation in Zimbabwe Report
Over 2.3 million children in Zimbabwe do not have birth certificates. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) revealed this yesterday, 30 September 2020 as they launched the Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe Report.
The national inquiry was conducted to find out the challenges Zimbabweans face in accessing the birth certificates, national identity cards, passports, citizenship and death certificates. This is Zimbabwe’s first national inquiry in the quest to address the impact of systematic violations of human rights.
The report provides recommendations to government to inform policy and ensure that the right to documentation of every citizen in upheld.
Access to national documentation is at the core of the enjoyment of the fundamental human rights. ZimRights shares the same observation with the ZHRC that only when Zimbabwe uses a human rights based approach to providing the national documents can the crisis be solved.
The findings by the ZHRC shows that the document which had the greatest challenge in accessing was the birth certificate. All other national documents depend on the ability to access the birth certificate.
Factors identified as hindering citizens to access documentation included corruption at the Registrar General’s office, lack of decentralization of services, cumbersome requirements, Inconsistent information from department of the Registrar General, negative attitudes and discriminatory practices by some RGs officers. Other barriers included lack of birth confirmation records, and cost of accessing services and payment modalities and resource constraints among other factors.
ZHRC chairperson, Elasto Mugwadi noted that, “there was a generational problem of acquiring documents and leads to citizens failing to fully enjoy fundamental human rights.”
Guest of honour at the launch, Jacob Mudenda who also doubles as Speaker of Parliament lamented the suffering Zimbabweans go through to access document. “Lack of access to documents is a wicked problem we should deal with,” Mudenda said.
“The problem dates back to colonial era and affects the rights such as the right to vote and many other freedoms,” he added. Mudenda said citizenship is a constitutionally guaranteed right that should not be messed with. ”Access to identity documents is a fundamental human right that leads to the enjoyment of other rights. Mudenda called on the public service officers to provide services as required without making the public suffer He also encouraged that the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation be publicized and also translated into all languages recognized.
The report provides Ministry specific recommendations and all ministries were given a copy of the report to implement the advice.
ZimRights is committed to supporting the work of the ZHRC in ensuring that the findings of Inquiry are made known to the communities most affected by lack of access to documentation. Through this, communities are empowered to make use of the report and claim their rights. ZimRights further commits to pushing for the relevant policy reforms meant to eliminate the obstacles to the full enjoyment of rights cited in the report.