Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (extract)
Access to documentation is a fundamental human right. It is a right upon which other rights can be enjoyed. National documents establish the legal relationship between a citizen and his or her country and they give rise to rights and obligations for both. They are documentary proof of one’s nationality. This aspect of identity is critical to an individual’s integrity as well as affecting his or her wellbeing. Notably, these documents afford a person access to fundamental human rights within a country, including obtaining employment, medical care, qualifying for social benefits, inheritance, enrolment into educational institutions, local and international travel, voting, being voted for and requesting the issuance of official documents and permits, among others. A person without documentation will have difficulties enjoying these rights and freedoms accorded to everyone, citizens or residents.
Documentation prevents statelessness which arises from gaps in law and practices that deny an individual the right to a nationality at birth or later in life. Statelessness results in marginalisation, depriving affected persons of their most basic rights, access to services and legal recognition. Individuals who lack a nationality or effective citizenship are usually among the most vulnerable to human rights violations in the entire world.
The decision to conduct the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe (National Inquiry) was informed by empirical evidence obtained from ZHRC programming work, where it was established that lack of documentation and its negative impact on human rights was a widespread problem in Zimbabwe. It was further informed by reports and research findings of other organisations as well as from concluding observations and recommendations of international and regional Treaty Bodies. The National Inquiry was, therefore, conducted to gather evidence on the nature and extent of this challenge and to make recommendations that will enhance access to documentation for people in Zimbabwe. It focused on access to birth certificates, national identity cards, passports, death certificates and proof of citizenship.
In conclusion, the National Inquiry established that a significant number of people were not documented and this lack of documentation adversely impacted on the enjoyment of their human rights. Generations of people without documentation have been created and many more have been left stateless or at the risk of statelessness. The Report covers numerous testimonies of witness experiences on challenges they have faced in accessing documentation and how this has affected their enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
The conclusion provides the necessary follow up steps that will be required to monitor implementation of recommendations so that access to documentation is enhanced.
The conclusion further outlines some recent developments and good practices which were noted during the National Inquiry process such as the approval by Cabinet of a Bill on the Citizenship Act, the introduction of regular mobile registration in some Provinces and the response of the Department of the Registrar General to Cyclone Idai.
[Report dated April 2020; launched 30 September 2020]