Rights group assists Matabeleland villagers to acquire birth certificates

A HUMAN rights lobby group is assisting marginalised villagers in Matabeleland to acquire birth certificates so they can obtain identity documents (IDs) and participate in the ongoing biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise.

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

This was revealed by Abammeli Human Rights Network representative Kunashe Muchemwa at a roundtable discussion on BVR in Bulawayo on Thursday.

The breakfast meeting was jointly organised by the Election Resources Centre (ERC) and Alpha Media Holdings — publishers of NewsDay, The Standard and Zimbabwe Independent.

Muchemwa told delegates that they had realised that thousands of eligible registrants were failing to register to vote owing to lack of identity documents.

“In rural Matabeleland, we have a significant number of people who do not have any form of identity particulars due to the Gukurahundi massacres. It is for this reason that Abammeli has stepped in to assist them acquire birth certificates for use to obtain IDs and register to vote during the 2018 elections.”

Most survivors of the 1980s Gukurahundi mass killings that left over 20 000 civilians dead do not have identity documents, researchers say. This has resulted in hundreds of pupils dropping out of school after failing to sit for examinations because they had no birth certificates.

“We target to assist at the most 50 people per day acquire birth certificates,” Muchemwa said.

In terms of Section 10 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, it is mandatory for every newborn child to be immediately registered irrespective of the parents’ country of origin. The birth certificate confirms and confers the citizenship of Zimbabwe by birth.

Muchemwa added: “Our suggestion is that for every voter registration centre, there must be Registrar-General’s department officers issuing birth certificates and IDs so that at least a number of people can be assisted, and to cut on travelling costs.

“Also, the requirements needed when you want to obtain an ID must also be looked into because some people do not have parents and some are told to ferry their relatives and they do not have the resources to do that.”

Former Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko once launched the documentation exercise that was meant to benefit children who lost their parents in the 1980s mass killings.

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