Fatima Bulla-Musakwa

A birth certificate is the most difficult national document to access in Zimbabwe, with Manicaland province having the highest number of people experiencing this challenge, according to findings released in the latest report on National Inquiry on Access to Documentation.

Overall, the report discovered that Zimbabweans are having difficulties accessing all civil documents – the national identity card, passport and death certificate.

Officially launched Wednesday by Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, the report indicates that birth certificates are the most difficult civic document to get (50,9 percent), followed by national ID (30 percent), passport (8,5 percent), death certificate (7,3 percent) and citizenship (3,3 percent).

A birth certificate is a primary document that essentially impacts on the acquisition of other documents.

“Such defining primary rights underpin the human ego, that person’s sense of self-esteem which affirms the human being’s worthiness in the community of the living and the departed. The denial, therefore, of such primary rights, which anchor the self-identity of individuals, should never be attenuated through lack of access to the fundamental personal documentation,” said Adv Mudenda.

The National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe, which began in March last year and ran for close to a year, was spearheaded by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).

Consultations were carried out throughout the country’s 10 provinces.

ZHRC chairperson, Dr Elasto Mugwadi, said the Commission received numerous testimonies of children who either failed to enroll in schools they preferred, dropped out or failed to participate fully in inter-school sporting activities because of lack of birth certificates.

Section 81 (c) (i) and (ii) of the Constitution guarantees the expeditious provision of birth certificates to children.

“It is, therefore, clear, Mr Speaker Sir, ladies and gentlemen that urgent responses are needed to address the identified challenges so that the plight of people failing to enjoy human rights due to lack of documentation can be resolved or minimised.

“As a Commission, we, therefore, appeal to stakeholders to whom recommendations have been addressed in the report to take ownership of those recommendations and work expeditiously towards their implementation.

“The yearning among citizens for enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms has never been greater and should be met by adopting lasting solutions that are proposed in this report,” Dr Mugwadi said.

The launch was attended by officials from the Office of the President and Cabinet,  Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, and the Registrar-General’s Office, among others.