Gweru (The Times -New Ziana) – As the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission national inquiry into access to documentation moves around the country, it recently emerged that about 200 children in one ward in the Vungu district of rural Gweru in the Midlands province do not have birth certificates.
Gweru social welfare officer Phyllis Tena said one of their awareness exercises had discovered the anomaly in Vungu.
Tena said there was need to set up registry offices at ward level especially in resettlement and communal areas.
She said observation of trend analysis revealed that people affected were mainly from communal and resettlement areas though some were from urban areas.
“In July this year, the Department of Social Welfare, Childline, Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the police conducted child protection awareness in Gweru District ward 18 resettlement,” she said.
“From the awareness, one of the issues raised was lack of birth certificates. An estimated 200 children do not have birth certificates,” Tena said.
She said the affected children learnt at Hozheri Primary and Secondary Schools, as well as Guinea Fowl.
Further, Tena said an average of 12 children were found to not have birth certificates on a monthly basis under the National Case Management System.
Tena said 47 children without birth certificates were reported under the NCMS during the first quarter of 2019.
Gweru district registrar Timothy Mariga said challenges that the public faced to access documents included long distances to registration centres, financial constraints, health institutions refusing to provide birth records after people failed to pay maternity fees, as well communication and language barriers for clients who speak Ndebele, Tonga and Chewa.
Other challenges include non-cooperation from parents, guardians, traditional and religious leaders.
Challenges that the Registrar’s Department faced include failure by parents to register births and deaths early as required by the Constitution with about 60 percent of births and deaths registration late, said Mariga.
The department, he said, also faced challenges of shortage of staff, financial constraints, inadequate offices, computer network failure, non-computerised sub offices, existing policies and vehicles among others.
Mariga said Government should increase the number of registration offices countrywide to bring the service to the people’s doorsteps.
He said the government should also provide resources required for passport production and issuing polythene identity cards, enact strict laws enforcing registration soon after birth of a child as well as review some policies.
“The payment of statutory fees must be waived to the elderly, orphaned, and physically and mentally challenged people, while health institutions must not demand maternity fees as a condition to issue birth records” he said.
Mariga said mobile registration should be done yearly in the remotest parts of the country.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has begun the Midlands Province public hearings on the national inquiry on access to documentation in Zimbabwe.
ZHRC commissioner Dr Ellen Sithole said access to identity documents was a fundamental human right which is guaranteed in the Constitution and facilitates the enjoyment of other human rights.
“People without documents have challenges accessing rights, which are the preserve of all citizens like the rights to health, social security, parental and social care, housing, travel documents, education and to participate in politics,” she said.
Dr Sithole said preliminary findings showed that most people in the Midlands fail to access birth and death certificates, identity cards and passports, while there are few cases of citizenship.
During the public hearings, the inquiry panel would receive oral evidence from different stakeholders from all the eight districts of the province with a total of 1 925 people engaged during an earlier outreach by the ZHRC.