ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has ended the agony of three minors, who were stateless and unable to pursue their educational exploits after failing to obtain birth certificates.
Two of the three minor children, whose mothers passed away in Botswana and Harare had failed to proceed to enrol for secondary education after completing their primary education.
The minor children’s mothers Evelyn and Siphiwe, died in Harare in July 2010 and in Botswana in December 2010 respectively. Evelyn was buried in Gokwe while Siphiwe was buried in Botswana and the fathers of the children are unknown.
The trio’s maternal grandmother Morine Dube, a 61 year-old resident of Famona suburb in Bulawayo, who did not have any documentation relating to the death of her children Evelyn and Siphiwe and that relating to the birth of her three grandchildren, was unable to register the birth of the minor children and this affected them as they were unable to enrol for secondary school.
An aggrieved Dube, who is a widow and a vendor, who survives on buying and selling fruits and vegetables, then enlisted the services of Godfrey Nyoni of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who in February 2022 filed an application at Bulawayo High Court seeking an order compelling the Registrar of Births and Deaths to declare the trio as Zimbabwean citizens by birth and to issue them with Zimbabwean birth certificates.
In the application, which was opposed by Ben Mpala, the Deputy Registrar of Births and Deaths, Nyoni argued that the Constitution provides that a child who is below the age of 15 and is found in Zimbabwe is deemed to be a Zimbabwean by birth and therefore entitled to national documents.
The human rights lawyer argued that the three minor children were being deprived of the many privileges attached to being a citizen of Zimbabwe including the right to be promptly issued with birth certificates and could not access justice.
Nyoni argued that by denying them birth certificates, the Registrar of Births and Deaths, was violating the minor children’s fundamental rights, freedoms and privileges, which other Zimbabwean citizens like them were accessing.
He argued that the three minor children deserve to be enrolled in school, to access basic education up to a level which they desire, to be free to vote when they reach the age of majority and obtain drivers’ licences and to be able to travel wherever they so desire.
Authorities at secondary schools, Nyoni said, were insisting on production of birth certificates before enrolling two of the minor children for Form 1.
One of the minor children, who attended school until he reached Grade 7 and could not proceed to Form 1 as school authorities demanded that he presents a birth certificate, was now working at a farm herding cattle while the one, who completed her Grade 7 studies could not proceed further amid fears that she may end up doing some menial duties just like her cousin. It was feared that one of the minor child, who is currently enrolled as a Grade 7 pupil may fail to proceed to Form 1 in 2024.
In opposing the application, Mpala, argued that Dube had not exhausted some internal remedies provided by the Registrar of Births and Deaths and that he had not been given sufficient time to investigate and establish the veracity of Dube’s claims.
When Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Evangelista Kabasa presided over hearing of Dube’s application in September 2022, she ordered the Registrar of Births and Deaths to conduct an inquiry in terms of section 16 of the Births and Registration Act, into the circumstances surrounding the birth of the three minor children within 30 days of the granting of the order and advise Dube through her lawyer Nyoni, of the outcome of the probe.
Section 16 of the Births and Registration Act provides for the registration of birth, where place or date of such birth is unknown, and which compels the Registrar of Births and Deaths, after due inquiry, to direct the registration of such birth and to assign a child a putative place or date of birth, or both, as the case may be.
Justice Kabasa said in the event that the Registrar of Births and Deaths fails to conduct the inquiry as ordered, the matter would be set down for consideration by the High Court.
However, no feedback on the status of the inquiry of the birth of the minor children was given to Nyoni by the Registrar of Births and Deaths and several follow ups were made with the Registrar of Births and Deaths as well as with his lawyers from the Attorney General’s Office.
Now, Dube and her minor children are now relieved as the Registrar of Births and Deaths recently ended their identity woes and statelessness status by issuing them with copies of their birth certificates, which were handed over to them on 5 January 2023 just in time for the opening of schools during the first term of the New Year.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
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