Govt waiver on reg fees pro­gres­sive

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Leader & Comment -

THE Min­istry of Home Af­fairs has taken a bold de­ci­sion to waive pay­ment for the ac­qui­si­tion of cru­cial civil doc­u­ments like na­tional iden­tity cards and birth cer­tifi­cates.

The waiver co­in­cides with a 90- day in­ten­si­fied reg­is­tra­tion ex­er­cise by the of­fice of the Reg­is­trar- Gen­eral to al­low as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to ac­quire these im­por­tant doc­u­ments.

We do not have fig­ures of how many peo­ple are with­out and in need of these doc­u­ments.

But in­for­ma­tion at hand in­di­cates a sub­stan­tial num­ber of peo­ple.

What we all know is just how dif­fi­cult it is to con­duct for­mal busi­ness with­out ei­ther of the doc­u­ments. For many peo­ple in the in­for­mal sec­tor, part­ing with $10 to get such a doc­u­ment be­comes a lux­ury when it com­petes with other daily re­quire­ments.

But we know that one must pro­duce a na­tional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ment for them to buy a cell­phone line from any of the ser­vice providers and their agents coun­try­wide.

That means a huge num­ber of peo­ple with­out such doc­u­ments can­not ben­e­fit from the pro­lif­er­a­tion of cell­phone tech­nol­ogy in ru­ral ar­eas be­cause they are not easy to iden­tify. The idea is to re­duce crime by be­ing able to ac­count for all the lines ser­vice providers sell to the pub­lic. Oth­er­wise crim­i­nals would buy lines, use them to com­mit of­fences and then dis­card them. In this age of cy­ber crime, that would be ut­terly ir­re­spon­si­ble for the coun­try.

But be­yond the per­sonal in­ter­est, the waiver of fees for these im­por­tant doc­u­ments comes at a time Zim­babwe is pre­par­ing for har­monised elec­tions next year. While vot­ing is not com­pul­sory as is the case in coun­tries such as Aus­tralia, it is nev­er­the­less a con­sti­tu­tional right for every Zim­bab­wean.

Yet there are thou­sands of peo­ple who have had to forego this con­sti­tu­tional right be­cause the same Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires peo­ple to pos­i­tively iden­tify them­selves at the polling sta­tion be­fore they are al­lowed to vote.

The only way they can do so is to pro­duce their na­tional iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards or birth cer­tifi­cates.

More im­por­tantly, peo­ple with­out such doc­u­ments are badly cir­cum­scribed in terms of op­por­tu­ni­ties. They can’t ac­quire travel doc­u­ments such as pass­ports, which lim­its their op­por­tu­ni­ties in a fast glob­al­is­ing world. They can only cross the bor­der il­le­gally.

It is good that the waiver has been an­nounced while there is plenty of time for peo­ple to reg­is­ter. Peo­ple have just come out of the hec­tic har­vest­ing sea­son and cool­ing off be­fore the next sum­mer crop­ping sea­son. Given that there are mo­bile reg­is­tra­tion teams de­ployed across the coun­try, it should be fea­si­ble to cap­ture as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.

How­ever, for max­i­mum ef­fect and ben­e­fit, there is also a need for a pub­lic­ity blitz on all main­stream me­dia, es­pe­cially ra­dio which still en­joy eas­ily the fur­thest reach at the least cost, with­out re­quir­ing any spe­cial at­ten­tion.

Peo­ple lis­ten to ra­dio as they go about their nor­mal chores, while driv­ing or while they com­mute in pub­lic trans­port.

NGOs and po­lit­i­cal par­ties can also play their part. So are the churches where most Zim­bab­weans spend their day on Sun­day. There are also so­cial me­dia plat­forms which can be used to spread the word. We have no doubt Zim­bab­weans can play their part to as­sist those far away.

We thus want to com­mend Home Af­fairs min­is­ter Dr Ig­natius Chombo for this timely in­ter­ven­tion to waive the fees to al­low as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to ac­quire these doc­u­ments, not only with an eye on the forth­com­ing elec­tions, but be­cause they have a bear­ing on their daily lives.

They can make the dif­fer­ence be­tween get­ting a job and be­ing ar­rested as a crim­i­nal in­truder. Not to men­tion that the po­lice have had prob­lems try­ing to iden­tify peo­ple killed in traf­fic ac­ci­dents with­out per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments.

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