Parly moves to resolve the fate of 300k stateless citizens

By Agencies

PARLIAMENT has resolved to investigate the presence of undocumented people in Zimbabwe after Amnesty International took the government to task over the statelessness of hundreds of thousands.

The human rights defender said many children were forced out of school due to failure to obtain identity documents and could not sit for public examinations.

Giving oral evidence to the Defence, Home Affairs, Veterans of the Liberation Struggle and Security Parly portfolio committee a fortnight ago, Amnesty lnternational described the issue as “problematic” and called for urgent redress.

Committee chair Beitbridge East MP Albert Nguluvhe on Monday said, “This committee together with the Registrar General must go on the ground and hear from the affected people.”
Despite the urgency of the situation as some children are said to be out of school, the government of Zimbabwe has continued to deny the existence of a stateless people within its borders.

There are no official statistics of stateless people in Zimbabwe but UNHCR put the figure at 300 000.
An official from the Home Affairs Ministry last week gave oral evidence to the Defence Committee saying those without documentation had not met the government’s requirements.

Most affected people are found in farming and mining communities in places such as Penhalonga, Manicaland; Hopely in Harare: Robert Sinyoka and Ngozi Mine in Bulawayo and other areas.

A ministry official told the committee that the issue was being “exaggerated” and that adequate measures were already in place to address citizenship and legal identity concerns.

Also, the official alleged Amnesty International’s 2021 Report on the Stateless people was outdated.

Amnesty International Zimbabwe executive director Lucia Masuka differed saying the human rights predicament of these people persisted as her organisation had continuously gone back to communities tracking progress on the government’s side and had not seen any.

“We acknowledge that there are steps that have taken place but our lens become the human rights.

“Our assessment is that there have been no changes since 2018. We monitor and follow up on the people we have interviewed. Unfortunately, nothing has changed.

“However, we commend the government on the steps taken regarding the Citizens’ Act so far, but the Death and Birth Registration Amendment Act alignment has not been done. Issues are still there and that is why we are here,” added Masuka.

Masuka welcomed the committee’s decision to go and investigate so that a solution could be found.

Evidence gathered by Amnesty International indicated significant gaps in the protection and recognition of stateless individuals.

“There are various dimensions to the challenges we are talking about here. For example, Section 43 of the Constitution and the Citizenship Act are worlds apart. There are lots of legal challenges where people are forced to take cases to the courts for interpretation,” said Masuka.

She highlighted that the law may be there to say descendants of migrants from SADC countries are citizens if they were born in Zimbabwe and were in Zimbabwe on the effective date but for them to prove their parents are citizens of Mozambique, they must bring birth certificates of their parents, which is difficult.

“I want to emphasise that the stories that we have heard are human stories, people like you and me, but they cannot enjoy the rights they have,” she added.

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