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Halt in processing IDs sparks public uproar

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THOUSANDS of people in the country are struggling to get identity documents in a move seen as a ploy by the Zanu PF government to frustrate voters as the country draws closer to the 2023 general elections. Millions of Zimbabweans are expected to vote in the polls expected to be decisive at a time the ruling party is riddled with factionalism and struggling to fulfill its 2018 election manifesto promises.

MORRIS BISHI

President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power on the back of the 2017 military coup. The prevailing economic hardships have contributed to a rising tide of discontent, putting the government under immense pressure.

The ministry of Home Affairs says it is facing challenges in the production of polythene-synthetic identity cards owing to the unavailability of consumables. The registry has since discontinued the issuance of the cards amid complaints that it takes up to four months to replace lost identity documents.

The challenges facing the national registry are however viewed by the main opposition MDC Alliance and human rights activists as a ploy by the Zanu PF government to frustrate Zimbabweans wishing to register for the 2023 elections.

Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe (pictured) promised to respond to questions sent to him by The NewsHawks, but spent the whole of Thursday without responding to calls.

A senior director in the ministry of Home Affairs told The NewsHawks that the civil registry department will conduct a national mobile registration exercise in April 2022 to ensure that all eligible voters are able to exercise their constitutional rights in the 2023 elections.

He said the ministry is currently facing challenges in the production of primary documents but the government has promised to avail funds to address the challenges.

“I am not allowed to give you a comment, but to tell you the truth we are facing challenges as a ministry. Polythene-synthetic consumables are in short supply in the country and many of our centres are facing challenges issuing identity documents. We are planning a mobile registration in April 2022 and it is our hope that the situation will improve as we move towards the 2023 general elections,” the director said.

 MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere told The NewsHawks that both the Registrar-General’s Office and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) are deliberately first-time voters who want to obtain identity documents and register to vote in 2023. She urged the Registrar-General to act swiftly to address the issue.

“The MDC Alliance condems the continued voter suppression tactics being invoked by the Registrar-General and Zec who are frustrating first-time voters who want to obtain IDs and register to vote. Without notice or explanation, the voter registration blitz that was scheduled for December was postponed indefinitely. Equally, persons of age who are seeking to obtain IDs or replace lost ones are being frustrated through administrative bottlenecks, excessive delays and chronic inefficiency. We demand that the Registrar-General acts swiftly to make sure the process of collecting IDs is accessible and efficient,” Mahere said.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi told The NewsHawks that it is sad to note that citizens are still finding it difficult to access primary identity documents at a time Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe recently assured his commission that the shortage of primary identity documents was addressed long back.

“This is news to me, as a commission we are not aware of this latest shortage. The minister informed us that the issue was addressed, but l am aware that the issue was recently discussed in Parliament and I will advise you to talk to them so that they will give you their latest position,” Mugwadi said.

 A survey by The NewsHawks throughout the country established that several registration offices are not fully functioning due to either shortages of polythene-synthetic identity consumables or other challenges including shortage of printing ribbons or malfunctioning printing machines.

 Observations at the Registrar-General’s Office in Harare, also known as Makombe Building, showed that national ID cards at the moment are being issued out only to those who booked in September this year while people who have lost their IDs are spending 10 days before getting a replacement.

Meanwhile, citizens intending to get an ID are being referred to branches in Chitungwiza, Mabvuku or at Market Square, or are simply told to return to Makombe Building in January next year. In Masvingo, those willing to replace lost identity documents this week were advised to return in March 2022.

The office is prioritising school pupils and first-time ID seekers who are being advised to come back after two weeks. In Bulawayo, people are being booked during mornings, but they are not served on the same day. In Harare, only a few people are being served at Market Square while hundreds are sleeping outside the offices in the hope of being served early the next morning.

In Mashonaland East, Chikomba, Wedza, Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, Chikomba, and Mudzi, the registrar’s offices are not issuing IDs due to the unavailability of printing ribborn. In Bulawayo, only the Mpilo office is issuing IDs while Nketa and Drill Hall are not serving clients due to malfunctioning printers and unavailability of electricity.

Most offices in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West, Matabeleland North and the Midlands are issuing the documents, with Chipinge, Chimanimani and Mutasa districts in Manicaland not serving the public due to the unavailability of printing ribbon.

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