MINORS’ STATELESSNESS AGONY ENDS AS RG ISSUES THEM WITH BIRTH CERTIFICATES

MINORS’ STATELESSNESS AGONY ENDS AS RG ISSUES THEM WITH BIRTH CERTIFICATES

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THE agony of two distraught minors and their parents has come to an end after the Registrar-General (RG)’s Office issued them with birth certificates to end their statelessness dilemma early this week.

The two minors aged 12 years and 10 years had been forced to endure statelessness for more than a decade after the RG, Henry Machiri refused to issue them with birth certificates on the basis that the children’s mother was still legally married to her estranged husband, a man who left for the United Kingdom, two decades ago and whose whereabouts were unknown.

The woman engaged in a relationship with another man after her husband’s disappearance, resulting in the birth of the two girls.

When the woman attempted to obtain birth certificates for her two children, the RG’s Office insisted that she should first produce a disclaimer affidavit from her estranged husband disowning the two girls and also demanded that their biological father should furnish the RG’s Office with Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) test results confirming the paternity of the children.

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

The woman then engaged Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, whose lawyers, Jabulani Mhlanga and Prisca Dube, in August 2023 petitioned the High Court seeking an order to compel the RG to issue the two minor children with birth certificates arguing that the conduct of the RG was contributing to statelessness and was a denial of access to documentation of deserving people, which contravened provisions of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to identity.

On 21 March 2024, Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo ordered the RG to register and issue the 12 year-old and 10 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.

On Monday 22 April 2024, the RG’s Office issued the two minors with birth certificates thereby ending their lengthy statelessness dilemma.

The issuance of the birth certificates came after Bulawayo Provincial Registrar, Jane Peters, called Mhlanga and Dube inviting the minors’ parents to go to Bulawayo District Registrar’s Office with all their documents and the court order, to facilitate the processing and issuance of the birth certificates of the minors.

ENDS

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
Kodzero/Amalungelo House
No. 103 Sam Nujoma Street, Harare, Zimbabwe
Phone: (+263 8677005347, +263 242 764085/705370/708118
Email: info@zlhr.org
www.zlhr.org.zw
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