Bulawayo residents struggling to get official documents

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By Bulawayo Correspondent

CITIZENS in Bulawayo are struggling to get national documents such as birth certificates, identity cards, passports as well as death certificates, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC)‘s Public Hearings on the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation heard on Monday.

The hearing got underway in the country’s second largest city with ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi telling journalists that one of the major challenges identified by community leaders in the city is about children who are born in South Africa and Botswana but return to Zimbabwe to seek documentation.

“Proximity to South Africa and Botswana resulting in children being born in the two countries and returning to Zimbabwe for documentation also proved to be a common challenge.

“Challenges identified by community members also included parents sending their children with ‘Omalayitsha’ from neighbouring countries to their grandparents,” said Mugwadi.

The ZHRC chairperson said preliminary findings have also indicated that several people were experiencing  challenges in obtaining birth certificates.

“Birth certificates challenges were experienced across age and range from children to the elderly. Other challenges cited by the community members include unknown whereabouts of members to stand as witnesses, costs to access the Registrar Generals’s office and unaffordable statutory fees,” said Mugwadi.

He also cited cultural resistance to register using the maternal surname as well as relatives unwilling to stand as witnesses as some of the challenges.

Mugwadi said the commission received a total of 464 witness and stakeholders forms from individuals and community groups in the province.

“Of these, 456 were individual submission forms and eight were stakeholder submissions, outlining the challenges they are facing regarding accessing to national documents,” he said.

The commission used provincial stakeholders meetings to select witnesses to give oral evidence on challenges they are facing or on behalf of others relating to identity documents.

The commission will conclude its public hearings in the city on Friday.

So far the commission has held public hearings in Masvingo, Matebeleland North, Mashonaland Central province, Matebeleland South, Mashonaland East, Midlands and Manicaland.

Section 243 (1) of the Constitution mandates the ZHRC to conduct research into issues relating to fundamental human rights, freedoms and social justice.