Speaking at the Midlands consultative meeting in Gweru yesterday, ZHRC co-ordinator Gorreti Mudzongo said the commission will gatherevidence from the affected people.
“The public hearings will be held in order to gather evidence on the challenges people are facing in getting the national documents. Ithas been discovered that lack of these documents infringes on the other rights such as the right to education and marriage, among others,”Mudzongo said.
“So we would want to have witnesses who can give evidence on the challenges they are facing. At the moment there has been generalisation in terms of the challenges, but we would now want to find tangible evidence and facts from the affected people themselves. The commissionwill foot costs of their travel from various areas to the public hearings as well as feed them. The ultimate goal is to ensure that wehave improved access to the national documents for everyone. We would also want to see the public hearings resulting in legislative andpolicy reforms that can enable all the people of Midlands access the national documents.”
Mudzongo emphasised that access to national documents was not a privilege, but a right.
“Our teams during the public hearings will specifically seek to explore the impact of the challenges people are facing due to lack ofnational documents. They will also search for the root causes of the challenges. The effectiveness of the existing legislation andpolicies will also be looked at during the public hearings,” she added.
Mudzongo said no political party regalia will be allowed at the public hearings.
Addressing the media at the commencement of public hearings in Marondera yesterday, ZHRC deputy chairperson Ellen Sithole said asignificant part of the country’s population still lacks access to birth certificates.
“Lack of access to birth certificates by a significant part of our population is of great concern to the commission from a human rightsperspective. Birth registration establishes a person’s legal existence, legal personality and identity. The importance of nationality isto prevent statelessness. Therefore, a person who is not registered does not legally exist, is not a citizen of the country and runs a substantial risk of falling outside the reach of government’s protective measures towards him or her,” she said.
Sithole added that the current problem of securing a passport is negatively affecting many livelihoods.
“The commission has observed that with the prevailing socio-economic challenges, possession of a passport does not only facilitatefreedom of movement as contemplated in Section 66 of the Constitution, but it is also a source of livelihoods. Many of our people todaysurvive on cross-border trade. If passports are not readily available, people have no choice, but to cross borders illegally, not onlycompromising their rights to life, personal security and human dignity in the process, but also being vulnerable and susceptible toexploitation, abuse and modern forms of slavery and servitude,” she said.
The Registrar-General’s Office is failing to secure enough passport paper due to a serious shortage of foreign currency.
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