TWO civil society groups, Habakkuk Trust and Christian Legal Society, appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Monday, to present evidence on their petition on lack of access to civil documentation.
BY SILAS NKALA
The petition was lodged in the wake of numerous reports that people in areas affected by the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities were struggling to access birth certificates and identity particulars.
Habakkuk Trust, in a report, said they received technical support from the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), to petition Parliament last year after realising that a huge number of people did not have birth certificates and national identity cards in most parts of Matabeleland region.
The report states that portfolio committee chairperson Fortune Chasi acknowledged that the issue of access to civil documents is an endemic problem throughout the country.
“The statistics are a highlight of the extent of this problem in this country and one hopes that the situation is not very bad, but based on the case studies you have given us, we are going to deliberate on your petition and compile a report that will go to Parliament,” he said.
The organisations presented empirical evidence from areas like Nkayi, Matobo and Gwanda districts where for instance in Nkayi, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education recorded 23 054 children without birth certificates in all the schools in the district. As of January 2018, a snap survey conducted in Matobo district recorded 607 children without birth certificates in five schools.
“With the recent signing of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Act aimed at addressing historical imbalances and past conflicts, the organisations forwarded a recommendation that a special instrument be put in place to cater for the plight of the descendants of the victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi atrocities who were killed or assumed killed or missing and were not formally registered as dead or missing persons,” Habakkuk Trust’s report read.
The civil society groups recommended tight security at the country’s borders to clamp down on child trafficking.
The trust said in the best interest of a child, they proposed prompt provision of birth certificates for children born outside the country who are citizens by descent and to waiver $50 fee.
They also urged the government to decentralise the issuance of birth certificates to local clinics and chiefs to reduce the distances people have to travel to the nearest registrar’s office.