Report on National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe

Access to national documentation is at the core of the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms. It is for this reason that the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission took the decision to conduct the National Inquiry on Access to Documentation in Zimbabwe in order to get a profound understanding of the issue with the view to finding durable solutions to address the plight of numerous people affected by lack of national documentation. This is the ZHRC’s first ever National Inquiry in its quest to address systemic violations of human rights. The findings contained in this Report are an eye opener to the various challenges that confront people in accessing national documentation and the impact that lack of access has on their lives.
A document such as a birth certificate enhances a person’s ability to navigate through life and achieve personal fulfilment. On the other hand, lack of this seemingly insignificant document results in far reaching consequences and shuts doors to opportunities later in life. In particular, lack of access impedes enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms such as right to identity, freedom of movement, right to education among many others. In conducting the National Inquiry, the ZHRC extensively engaged stakeholders to ensure that the findings would reflect the challenges of accessing documentation at the national level. The national importance of access to documentation was revealed by the high level of response by stakeholders from Government, Traditional Leaders, CSOs, Faith Based Organisations and individuals. These groups came forward to identify challenges as well as offer recommendations to address issues relating to access to documentation in Zimbabwe. Such responses facilitated the achievement of consensus on the issue of access to documentation and also enriched the findings of this Report. Further, the non-adversarial approach the ZHRC adopted in conducting the National Inquiryencouraged stakeholders to participate freely in the gathering of views on the issue at hand.
The Report recorded detailed lived experiences and testimonies of affected people, which clearly illustrate the challenges that confront people in accessing documentation and the impact thereof on their lives. It is clear that urgent responses are needed to address the identified challenges so that the plight of people failing to enjoy human rights due to lack of documentation can be resolved. Special attention should be placed on vulnerable groups of people who face multiple challenges in accessing documents. Such groups include persons with disabilities, Gukurahundi-affected communities and minorities among others. The Report underscores the impact of lack of documentation on the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms and emphasises the need for immediate action to be taken on the specific and targeted recommendations set out therein. The yearning among people for enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms has never been greater and should be met by adopting lasting solutions that are proposed in this Report.
Through this Report, we are able to take stock of on-going challenges, highlight human rights violations and contribute to legal and policy-driven imperatives to address lack of documentation. This Report is the ZHRC’s legacy which ensures Zimbabweans enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution. It also provides for awareness, guidance, leadership and hope on this very important entitlement to national documentation.
The challenges identified therefore, demand collaboration among stakeholders to enhance access to documentation. Such access should cascade to the most marginalized communities. As you read this Report, I invite you to be part of the solution to addressing these challenges.
I would like to thank all stakeholders who participated in the National Inquiry as well as the ZHRC Secretariat who worked diligently and tirelessly during data gathering, analysis and compilation of this Report.
Finally, I would like to thank my fellow Commissioners who participated throughout the process by gathering compelling evidence and patiently hearing and documenting numerous testimonies of witnesses upon which this Report is based.

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