REPORTS yesterday said the Registrar-General’s office would from Monday resume issuing birth certificates, passports and identity documents (IDs) after months of closure due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
The exercise, we are told, would target the marginalised San community in Tsholotsho and the Shangaan in the Lowveld, who have been rendered stateless 41 years after independence.
These two minority tribes are not alone in this predicament as there are many other groups who have been denied citizenship in their country of origin by a toxic combination of bureaucracy and discrimination.
There are hundreds to thousands of Gukurahundi victims who do not have identity documents.
There are also stateless citizens born of migrant workers.
Recently, we saw the RG’s office being forced to close offices after thousands of students thronged its offices seeking identity documents to enable them to register for Zimsec examinations.
MDC Alliance youths from Bulawayo observed in their latest survey conducted during a door-to-door voter registration awareness exercise that the majority of young aspiring voters were failing to register as first-time voters due to lack of identity documents.
Although there are no exact statistics, estimates put the number of the stateless in Zimbabwe at around 300 000, the majority of whom are based in Matabeleland.
The international legal definition of a stateless person is “a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.
In simple terms, this means that a stateless person does not have a nationality of any country. Some people are born stateless, but others become stateless — both by virtue of not having identity documents.
Whatever the cause, statelessness has serious consequences — violating their Bill of Rights as guaranteed in the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights has civil, political, environmental, economic, social and cultural rights.
Stateless people have difficulty accessing basic rights such as education, housing, healthcare, employment and are prevented from participating in governance processes such as elections.
Without these things, they can face a lifetime of obstacles, disappointment and poverty.
As such, we call on authorities to take deliberate measures to ensure the documentation of every Zimbabwean entitled to nationality as provided for in the Constitution and under international conventions such as the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Zimbabwe is signatory to.
National IDs are a basic right.