By Kenneth Matimaire
CHILDREN born to victims of Gukurahundi massacres have been deprived of their right to access birth registration leading to dire human rights violations associated with statelessness, a new study has shown.
The findings featured in a study conducted by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) titled: Cursed with Statelessness: Consequences of Deprivation of National Identification Documents.
“There are unregistered citizens born within Zimbabwe that were born to victims of Gukurahundi massacres,” states the study.
The findings were identified in Matobo districts, other areas of Matabeleland, and parts of Midlands provinces.
In this group, unregistered citizens appear in two sub-groups, namely children of Gukurahundi victims and grandchildren of victims of post-Gukurahundi massacres.
Although the plight of citizens born in Zimbabwe to victims of Gukurahundi has been researched and findings shared with responsible state authorities, the new study discovered that their “deprivation of access to birth certificates persists.”
Some of them have been migrating to neighbouring countries in search of jobs and left-behind children with no birth certificates while others have brought home their unregistered children from the diaspora.
The study unearthed that though some of their parents are still alive, their national identity documents were burnt when their belongings were set on fire during Gukurahundi.
“The other category is those citizens whose parents were killed or subject to enforced disappearances during Gukurahundi and did not have death certificates to assist in getting birth certificates for children of the deceased or disappeared parents,” further states the ZPP study.
Gukurahundi was a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by North Korean trained Fifth Brigade – an infantry brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA).
Between early 1983 to late 1987, many Ndebeles were detained by government forces and either marched to re-education camps or were summarily executed.
Although there are different estimates, the consensus of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) states that more than 20 000 people were killed and classified the massacres as a genocide.
Owing to the prejudice of the massacres, the study further notes that parents who were born to victims of Gukurahundi violence were forced to migrate to neighbouring countries in search for employment opportunities “as they cannot get employed locally without secondary education, certificates, passports, and entrepreneurial license.”
Human rights experts indicate that lack of birth and national documents prevent the affected from buying a house or land in commercial areas, acquire mobile phone lines.
Unregistered individuals are also left with no right to vote or assume political leadership positions which all depend on a birth certificate that is inaccessible to them.
The study went on to classify the victims as stateless.
“These citizens of Zimbabwe have been forced to live a life of statelessness and if nothing is done fast to assist them to acquire birth certificates, passports and national identity documents the curse of statelessness will affect more generations,” states ZPP.
The provisions of the Birth and Death Registration (BDR) Act and the regulations of the DRG require citizens to bring proof of death certificates of their parents, which is impossible for children of victims of Gukurahundi.
ZPP indicated that the BDR Act is prohibitive, discriminatory, and disenfranchising as “it is impossible to produce a death certificate of a victim of Gukurahundi massacres and enforced disappearance.”
Although the state has offered grace to the victims of Gukurahundi to register free of charge, the victims are afraid and intimidated noted ZPP in the study.