BY SILAS NKALA
THE Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) will soon embark on a nationwide inquiry on access to civil documentation following numerous complaints by civil and human rights groups in Matabeleland that most Gukurahundi victims faced difficulties in obtaining identity particulars.
Rights and pressure groups including Habakkuk Trust, Post-Independence Survivors’ Trust (PIST) led by Felix Mafa Sibanda, Ibhetshu likaZulu led by Mbuso Fuzwayo and Mthwakazi Republic Party led by Mqondisi Moyo, have been calling for special dispensation for Gukurahundi victims to access identity documents.
They say most survivors of the 1980s atrocities had lost parents during the crackdown, hence their failure to get birth certificates.
Habakkuk Trust recently petitioned Parliament calling for relaxation of the birth registration requirements.
On Monday,. ZHCR deputy chairperson Ellen Sithole confirmed the planned inquiry.
“Yes, we will be conducting an inquiry, but at the moment we are at a preparatory stage. It will be a nationwide programme, where we would go about getting some samples and this will be in April or May,” Sithole said.
“We had a workshop on February 5 and 6 with some of our stakeholders and the registry department on how we should go about the issues.”
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Section 27 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (chapter 5:02) prescribes offences and penalties for not registering a child. The Act, equally, prescribes penalties for not registering a death.
In December last year, government relaxed the stringent birth registration requirements for children born outside the country and decentralised the processing of external birth certificates to all districts to enable ease of access.
They reduced the fees from $50 to $2 for children above six years old, while those below can now acquire the document for free.
PIST director, Felix Magalela Sibanda, on Monday, however, said ZHRC is wasting time and resources conducting unnecessary surveys.
“These people are wasting time by doing workshops and wanting to do surveys when it is obvious that people have no documents and struggle to survive due to that,” Sibanda said.
“They should have hit the ground running to push for the people to get the documents especially in Matabeleland and Midlands where there are a lot of Gukurahundi victims.”
Sibanda said many people in the region cannot open bank accounts, buy mobile lines, or acquire anything in their names because they are not documented.
He challenged other rights groups to assist victims in getting identity documents because most of them feared approaching national registry offices.
Rural Community Empowermnent Development Trust co-ordinator for Lupane Vumnani Ndlovu said: “Documentation has been a major challenge because of numerous reasons such as the Gukurahundi atrocities and lack of access to offices issuing the documents.
“ They must also consider using the available statistics from civic society organisations that have all along been seized with this matter.”