BY PATRICIA SIBANDA
A 37-YEAR-OLD refugee from Mozambique, Barbara Nyamunda, has narrated the horror of not having national identification documents since she arrived as a child at Zimbabwe’s Tongogara Refugee Camp in 1984. This was at the height of a war between the Mozambican government and Renamo rebels back home.
Consequently, her children are also undocumented.
Nyamunda made the revelations while testifying before the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) inquiry in Bulawayo on Monday.
She said her failure to obtain a birth certificate and identity card forced her into early marriage, which resulted in her bearing children who also do not have national documents.
Nyamunda said she did Grade Seven and failed to proceed with her education because her parents had separated and they never had a chance to help her get identification documents.
“My parents and I escaped from Mozambique to Zimbabwe during the Renamo war when I was two years, to live at Tongogara Refugee Camp. I attended school up to Grade Seven and when they asked for my documents, I failed to produce them. I had to stay at home because they told me I could not proceed with school,” she said.
Nyamunda said she was forced into marriage at a tender age because she could not continue with school.
“I married my husband when I was very young because of lack of documentation . . . I think I was only 16 when I moved in with him,” she said.
She also spoke about her husband trying to help her talk to her parents concerning her identity documents, but they spurned his requests because he had not paid dowry.
“When my husband tried to talk to my parents, they chased him away because they claimed that he had not paid lobola . . . so whenever he tried they would tell him to go away,” she said.
Nyamunda said her husband later took off and told her that he could not stay with someone without IDs.
“I no longer stay with my husband after he left me because of my failure to attain even a birth certificate for myself. He left me with five children who, just like me, have not attended school because they cannot get birth certificates,” she said.
She said her problems were compounded after her parents died during Cyclone Idai in March this year.
ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said birth certificates were only issued to aliens’ children if both parents are citizens of Zimbabwe.
Mugwadi advised Nyamunda to visit the Mozambican embassy in Harare for documentation.
“You can go to the Mozambican embassy in Harare and explain yourself to the Refugees Commissioner, but I urge you to go to Tongogara and get your parents’ details first. I am quite sure they have records there concerning them,” Mugwadi said.
He also urged her to ensure her children also get documentation.
Bulawayo provincial registrar, Jane Peters said people do not check registration laws to see what was required of them to become registered citizens.
“Because of lack of knowledge, people grow up in Zimbabwe thinking that they are entitled to have the Zimbabwean documents. In my own perception, if people could observe the child registration laws . . . us as the registration arm of government we do not charge any money for children to get documentation,” Peters said.