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Traditional Leaders Granted Authority To Register Marriages And Issue Birth & Death Certificates

In a groundbreaking development aimed at combating statelessness, traditional leaders in Zimbabwe will now wield the power to register marriages and issue birth and death certificates. The revelation was made by Fortune Charumbira, Vice-President of the National Council of Chiefs, during a conference of traditional leaders held in Harare on Thursday.

Charumbira emphasized the significance of this move, particularly in rural areas where over 70% of Zimbabweans reside and where traditional leaders hold significant influence. He noted that this decision is poised to profoundly impact the lives of a majority of the population.

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The initiative comes in response to a pressing issue highlighted by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. Their inquiry into access to documentation revealed a staggering statistic: as of September 2020, over 2.3 million children in Zimbabwe lacked birth certificates.

This move aligns with the Zimbabwe Constitution, which guarantees every individual the right to access citizenship documents. However, the reality on the ground has often fallen short of this constitutional promise, with many children facing obstacles in obtaining birth certificates and national identification cards.

The empowerment of traditional leaders to handle vital documentation is seen as a significant step towards addressing this critical issue, potentially streamlining the process and ensuring that more Zimbabweans have access to essential documents that affirm their citizenship and identity.

“Traditional leaders will now handle marriage registrations and issuance of death or birth certificates, serving as an official record maintained by the Registrar’s Office,” Charumbira said in his closing remarks at the two-day chiefs’ conference.

“Traditional leaders in this country from now on will register marriages and death certificates or birth certificates. This is a record that the Registrar’s Office will rely on.”

Charumbira emphasized the necessity of this action to guarantee access to vital services for all Zimbabweans.

“Once you impact on traditional leadership you have impacted more than for example, Zimbabwe, over 80% of lives,” he said.

A comprehensive access to documentation baseline survey conducted by a consortium of civil society organizations in Bulawayo back in 2017 uncovered a stark reality: an estimated 445,852 children across the three Matabeleland provinces were without birth certificates.

This revelation underscores a pressing concern in Zimbabwe—statelessness—a situation that leaves individuals without a recognized nationality and consequently deprived of basic rights and services.

In response to this global issue, the United Nations has formulated various protocols and conventions aimed at addressing statelessness. One such initiative is highlighted in Article 15 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which unequivocally asserts the right of every individual to a nationality. Furthermore, the article emphasizes that no one should be arbitrarily stripped of their nationality or denied the opportunity to change it.

Statelessness remains a significant challenge on a global scale, affecting approximately 12 million people worldwide. This sobering statistic underscores the urgency of addressing the issue and ensuring that every individual has access to the fundamental rights and protections afforded by nationality.

ZiMetro

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