editorial comment

IT comes as a seriously embarrassing affront to the Zimbabwe nation State that we are condemning hundreds, if not thousands, of fellow brothers and sisters to Statelessness simply because one or both their parents are unknown to them, which makes it impossible for them to obtain identity documents (IDs) under the country’s very strange laws that unashamedly trample on basic human rights. Having an ID is one of the most basic human rights that should not be so complicated and made to appear to be so sacred that a whole nation conspires to deny fellow citizens the right to belong somewhere.

Inquiries by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) have so far revealed that there are thousands of Zimbabwean citizens out there with neither birth certificates nor any other form of ID, with some of these hapless souls now being condemned to rot in jail simply because they cannot be pardoned since they have never obtained a birth certificate. The failure by fellow citizens to get IDs is exposing the southern African nation’s appalling human rights record. Little wonder Zimbabwe is struggling to understand why the community of nations has kept its doors slammed shut on it. Our human rights conditions are simply dreadful! And it is such basic things like failure to access IDs that are contributing to our outrageous human rights record. Indeed, everyone of us have to be very ashamed of ourselves for being part of a people nurturing such awful human rights conditions which have seen us not being bothered to treat fellow human beings with the dignity they deserve regardless of their unfortunate circumstances.

A Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services chief correction officer, Gilbert Munemo last week exposed the atrocious level of the country’s human rights record when he appeared before the ZHRC saying: “According to a recent survey we conducted in Mashonaland West, it was observed that many inmates do not have birth certificates and national identity documents.”

Munemo further told us that since these prisoners are termed “Stateless” they have no right to Presidential amnesty because their ages cannot be determined. They also are said to have no right to sit for educational or professional examinations. Simply put, they don’t exist just because they don’t know any relative who can help them get an ID.

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“Presidential pardons come with certain specific conditions such as age, hence due to the fact that some inmates do not have birth certificates and identity cards, they do not qualify,” Munemo told us. It is astounding that in this day and age – when science is now so advanced that humankind is now able to do amazing things such as penetrating space into the yonder galaxies millions of lights years away — the State cannot or is not interested in establishing those inmates’ ages.

Munemo makes it sound as if it is virtually impossible to determine someone’s age from scratch when science has become so cutting-edge that such disciplines as carbon dating are now stuff for kindergarten learners who now know that age can simply be determined by one’s teeth, bone structure and sexual characteristics. We hope that by the time the ZHRC is complete with its inquiries, the country will treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves for the sake of saving our degraded dignity as a people.