Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Reporter
49-YEAR-OLD Loveness Maworera from Buhera could not contain her joy after receiving her grandchild’s birth certificate.
For 11 years, she had been going up and down trying to acquire the document for her granddaughter Delma Munashe without success.
She finally got the document during the week-long public hearings on challenges of accessing documentation held in Mutare by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).
ZHRC is investigating the challenges faced by Zimbabweans in accessing national documentation.
During the public hearings, witnesses selected from all districts have been giving testimonies of how failure to access the documents had negatively impacted their lives.
For Ms Maworera, taking care of a child with disability has been a challenge on its own.
Her predicament was compounded by the fact that the child had no birth certificate.
Resultantly, she could not get assistance for the child.
Rejected by both parents, Delma has been staying with her grandmother as her sole guardian since three.
“My daughter ran away to marry an old man who already had other wives when she was 14 years old.
“I looked for her and later found out that she had eloped. She came back nine months later with her bag, heavily pregnant. The husband never followed up on her,” said Ms Maworera.
“Four days later, she gave birth and we were all happy.
“We never knew the baby was disabled until she was three.
“When my daughter discovered that the child was disabled, she ran away. She has never come back.”
Ms Maworera said her husband died in 2004.
He had no national identity card, and their four children could not get birth certificates.
“My grandchild has not been able to access things like education and assistance from donors or social welfare as they demand to see her birth certificate. I once took her to school, but she was bullied and could not stay there because of her condition,” she said.
After submitting her oral evidence, officers from the Registrar General’s office took her issue up and registered the child.
“Even if I die today, I will die a happy woman.
“My grandchild can get the assistance she because she now has a birth certificate. I can use the birth certificate to look for assistance,” she said.
Mrs Maworera case is not unique.
There are thousands of people like her in Manaicaland.
ZHRC deputy chairperson Dr Ellen Sithole said birth registration establishes a person’s legal existence, personality and identity.
“Therefore, a person who is not registered does not legally exist, is not a citizen of the country and runs a substantial risk of falling outside the reach of Government’s protective measures,” she said.
“For such people, it becomes difficult to access rights which are a preserve of all such as health, social security, parental or social care, housing, travel documents, education and political, to mention a few.”
Dr Sithole said indications in Manicaland showed that some people were failing to access documentation due to religious beliefs, inter marriages and long distances travelled to access the documents.
“Religious norms and beliefs by some apostolic sects are a major cause of non-documentation in Manicaland as the religious groups shun the use of health centres, thus failing to access birth records which are used in acquiring birth certificates,” said Dr Sithole.
“Long distances and costs of accessing the Registrar General’s office also contributed to challenges experienced by people in accessing documents.”
The situation in Manicaland was worsened by Cyclone Idai which hit Chimanimani and Chipinge districts, resulting in many people losing their national documents.
Tendai Zamara, of Ziyapenduka village, in Chipinge said she lost her documents during the cyclone and when she went to get a replacement, she was told that there was a problem with her birth certificate.
She was instructed to renew it first, and unfortunately for her, she did not have the $10 required to process a new one.
The Registar General has since come to the rescue of those affected by Cyclone Idai as they can now access national documents free of charge.
Zamara and many others have since benefited from the initiative.