By Lungile Moyo
Women from Nketa’s ward 24 in Bulawayo have complained about the lack of access to national identification documents for their children.
Speaking at a Human Rights Service Provider Discussion meeting hosted by South Western Region Gender Network (SWRGN) last week the women told representatives from Social services, Education and the public health services sectors that issues such as paying large sums of money in order to get their children birth certificates, which are a right to have, were making a lot of their children to grow up without these particulars.
Although officials from the Registrar General’s office were invited but did not make it to the meeting, women at the gathering raised a lot of concerns regarding the office saying it takes too long to process their documents and at times its officials are very unfriendly and intimidating to citizens.
Amakhosikazi Media spoke to a woman called J. Mhlanga who attended the meeting and revealed she has grandchildren who do not have birth certificates and that the issue is becoming a big challenge for her and other mothers and grandmothers.
“Indaba yama birth certificate isithwalise nzima mntanami ikakhulu thina njengabo mama labogogo esihlala Labantwana, sesihlukumezekile kakhulu ikakhulu thina esilaba zukulu abazalelwa Egoli ngoba kumele sikhiphe imali ezinengi ukuze sikwanise ukuthathela abantwana amabirth” (The issue of birth certificates is affecting us as mothers, especially for some of us with grandchildren who were born outside the country, because large sums of money are needed in order for us to get birth certificates for our children) said Mhlanga.
Mhlanga also said that even those who are born in Zimbabwe face challenges of getting birth certificates, especially if their parents passed on or got separated and that even if they go to school they don’t participate in any school activities or other welfare benefits that are availed.
One of the residents Julia Mhanje said that the issue of lack of birth certificates affects children from a younger age until they reach their adult years hence it needs to be addressed with urgency.
“Umntwana nxa engela birth certificate ubanjengo mntwana ongela identity. Okokuqala indawo yokufunda uyithola nzima, nxa esekhulile sokumele atshade kubanzima futhi njalo ngoba sokufuneka isithupha”, said Mhanje. (If a child does not have a birth certificate he or she becomes like someone without an identity. Her parents will struggle to get her a place for school, when she is old enough to be married she will also struggle because she needs to have a national ID as well).
Sanele Mlilo a grandmother, said she lives with her three grandchildren who are orphans and all do not have birth certificates and have stopped attending school due to this.
“Ngilabo abazukulu abathathu abangela ma birth, ababili bakhona sebekhulakhulile kodwa sikhuluma nje kabasa fundi ngoba bathi befika ku grade 7 behluleka ukubhala ngoba bengela mabirth, kunzima kimi njengogogo ngoba ama death certificate abazali babo angilawo” said Mlilo. (l have three grandchildren who do not have birth certificates, two of them are a bit older but as we are talking they no longer go to school because when they reached grade 7 they failed to sit for their examinations because they did not have birth certificates. It is hard for me as their grandmother because l do not have their parent’s death certificates either)
Mlilo also said that her grandchildren have been labelled as thieves and accused of all sorts of bad things in their neighbourhood because they no longer go to school. She also said that they are now planning to go to South Africa and look for employment there because in Zimbabwe it is hard to get formal employment without a national ID which needs a birth certificate to secure.
Chelesile Nyathi the coordinator for SWRGN said that this program started in 2017 where a baseline survey was done to find out the levels and root causes of lack of access to birth certificates and ultimately other national identity documents. The baseline survey was done through focus groups and one on one interviews at community level.
The study carried out by a consortium of 12 organisations in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland Sounth and Bulawayo on access to documentation for children aged between 0-18 revealed among other findings, that of the children surveyed in Bulawayo aged between 0 and 3 years old, only 53% had birth certificates leaving 43% without documentation.
“We planned this meeting to address the issue of birth certificate that is affecting the Bulawayo community. As an organisation we have realised that this has been an issue of concern especially looking at young children who can’t go to school or partake in any activities like sports because they have no identification,” said Mrs Nyathi.
“As an organisation we have also realised that the issue of lack of birth certificates is a big challenge not only for young children who are at school but also for mothers and grandmothers who are finding it hard to help their children on this issue as they themselves do not have birth certificate”.
The residents also complained that representatives from the Registrar General's office who were supposed to be present in the meeting and hear their concerns did not come or send an apology.