Human rights watchdog mounts pressure on RG’s office

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Harare – The Registrar General’s office will have to answer to findings from an inquiry set to be launched by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) this month.

ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi revealed that a National Documentation Inquiry will begin later this month and will focus on issues regarding access to national identification.

In an interview with the Mail and Telegraph,  on the sidelines of the National Conference on Human Rights and Access to Justice in the capital on Monday, Mugwadi said the inquiry was vital as many people in the country were currently considered stateless.

“This inquiry is very necessary because we have been receiving complaints or questions on why people are not able to access birth certificates, national IDs some of whom are now majors (adult age), they do not have IDs they do not have birth certificates because of the requirements of the RG’s office.

“So we are saying we need to get to the bottom of it, what exactly is impeding on the issuance of these documents? I mean you are only identifiable as a national or Zimbabwean citizen if you have an ID [or] a birth certificate for this country, if not then you are rendered stateless in your own country of birth so we are concerned about this,” he said.

Mugwadi said the inquiry was fully funded and would begin later this month.

“We will probably be starting soon after the 15th because we have been trying to put all the necessary logistics in place advising the people we are going to be meeting out there regarding our intended visits to their provinces, so it is likely to start around the 20th of November and we believe we may be able to finish by around mid January if not the end of January at the latest,” he  added.

Mugwadi said the inquiry would look at various cases where the requirements for national documents were too difficult to attain, giving an example of those born during the Gukurahundi era.

“Can you imagine people who were born in the early 80s? They are now majors in their thirties and some of them have got no birth certificates or IDs because they cannot present to the registry office witnesses to confirm that they were born in that locality or area, so we are saying they should be better means of screening a local from a non-local,” he said.

Mugwadi called on the government to align the ZHRC Act with the 2013 constitution, in order to empower his commission and its mandate.

He said the commission currently had only two offices (Harare and Bulawayo) which limited its capacity as a national body

Mugwadi said the commission needed more than “resource empowerment” or it would risk falling behind other human rights bodies around the world.

“The commission for now can only make recommendations, if it carries out an investigation where human rights have been reported as violated or infringed upon the commission can only make a recommendation but in other jurisdictions national human rights institutions can actually issue orders,” he said.

Meanwhile, in a speech read on his behalf the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi said the government had initiated an “inclusive bottom- up approach” in order to achieve its goal of “making justice accessible to everyone by 2020.”

The conference entitled ‘Enhancing human rights and access to justice in Zimbabwe’ was hosted by the Legal Resources Foundation, and was attended by various civil society organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders.

The minister said the government’s involvement in the conference would be for the greater good of ordinary citizens.

“I believe that this conference is an ice breaker and a first step in the right direction in cultivating trust between government and CSOs.

“Working together benefits neither CSOs nor the government but our citizens especially the marginalised and the vulnerable” Ziyambi said.

The conference ends on Tuesday.

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