ZLHR ends Children’s Statelessness Dilemma

ZLHR ends Children’s Statelessness Dilemma

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THE REGISTRAR-General (RG) has been ordered to end the statelessness dilemma of two minor children by registering their births and issue them with birth certificates within one week, after he and his subordinates had refused to do so for several years.

The two minor children, who are aged 10 and 12 years old, had been undocumented since birth and rendered stateless in the land of their birth for several years after the RG Henry Machiri withheld the issuance of their birth certificates by demanding that their mother’s estranged husband, who left for the United Kingdom several years ago and whose whereabouts are unknown, should produce a disclaimer affidavit disowning the two girls and also asked their biological father to furnish the RG’s Office with Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) test results confirming the paternity of the children.

According to court documents, the mother, who has been been struggling to process the birth certificates for her minor children, was legally married to his estranged husband since January 2004.

Sometime in 2004, the now estranged husband, reportedly left Zimbabwe for the United Kingdom with an agreement that the wife would follow him a year later.

But this did not materialise and the two have been estranged for 20 years with the minor’s mother not in the know about the current whereabouts of her former husband.

The mother of the minor children subsequently entered into a relationship with another man and gave birth to the two girls in 2012 and 2014 and this is confirmed in the birth confirmation records from Mpilo Central Hospital and United Bulawayo Hospitals, where the two girls were born.

Over the years, the minor’s mother unsuccessfully attempted to process the birth certificates for her two children and in her recent attempt, sometime in January 2023, she was advised by authorities at the Bulawayo District Registry, that she must either produce a disclaimer affidavit from her estranged husband confirming that the children are not his or a divorce decree from the High Court or Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) test results confirming the paternity of the children. However, she was not in possession of any of the required documents leading to the minors living and remaining as undocumented children.

Adding onto her dilemma, her 12 year-old daughter is scheduled to register for her Grade Seven examinations, which will be written later this year and her school has demanded to be furnished with a birth certificate in order to facilitate her registration.

Through the assistance of her lawyers, Jabulani Mhlanga and Prisca Dube of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the minors and their parents have now heaved a sigh of relief after High Court Judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo recently ordered the Registrar-General to register and issue the 10 year-old and 12 year-old children with birth certificates within seven days.

In her ruling, Justice Moyo castigated the conduct of authorities at the RG’s Office for refusing to register births of children without availing valid reasons, which she said is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution and was contributing to statelessness and was a denial of access to documentation of deserving people.

The Judge criticised the conduct of officials in the RG’s Office for giving themselves powers that are not conferred to them in terms of the law and for placing onerous requirements on parents applying for birth certificates of their children.

Justice Moyo stated that the RG does not have powers to order DNA tests among other requirements to prove paternity and emphasised that it was not the duty of the RG to enquire into and regulate the marital status of the parents applying for birth certificates for their minor children.

The Judge emphasised the importance of the right to a birth certificate and that it is not a right that can just be interfered with and that the RG is mandated to facilitate the process of assisting one to obtain such a critical document.

ENDS

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
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