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Zimbabweans chase elusive IDs

by Staff reporter
19 Dec 2023 at 06:16hrs | Views
AN icy wind whips through the deserted streets, stinging the faces of the figures huddled together outside the Registrar-General's office.

They clutch worn backpacks and thermoses, a makeshift breakfast in the battle against the cold and frustration.

It's the daily pilgrimage for thousands of Zimbabweans: the hunt for the elusive national identity document (ID).

The ID crisis in Zimbabwe has reached fever pitch.

Offices across the country face crippling shortages of plastic cards, the lifeblood of legal existence.

Diaspora returnees, their hopes pinned on replacing lost or expired IDs, face weeks of agonising waiting.

Young Takura, just 16 and brimming with nervous excitement, dreams of registering for exams, but the ID, a passport to academic adulthood, remains unobtainable.

"I need my ID to register for examinations next year," Takura whispers, his voice barely audible over the wind.

"But with the way things are going, I don't know if I'll get it in time."

A contract signed with Garsu Pasaulis, a Lithuanian company, by the government in 2021 has failed to alleviate the ID crisis.

The shortage has been ongoing for several months, with reports of registry offices running out of plastic ID cards and resorting to issuing waiting passes.

The green waiting pass, a flimsy consolation, mocks the dream of a plastic ID. Banks won't recognise it, jobs slip through its grasp and dreams wither under its pale sheen.

"I came back from Malawi to open a bank account so I could send money to my family," says a dejected Tapiwa Nyatanga.

"But they won't accept the green paper. I'm stuck here, with no money and no way to get what I need."

Registrar-General Henry Machiri denied that there is a shortage of consumables.

"During the pre-election period, the government availed consumables and every registration office had consumables. So, that problem was addressed well before elections," Machiri said.

"Yes, you can go to an office and find the machine down or the network down, but the major problem was of consumables, which was addressed."

He added: "But since we use machines, today they can be up and tomorrow they are down. But when doing rollouts [of decentralisation], we can't do it all at once.

"So if there are offices that are not issuing out IDs  right now, the machines might have developed a fault, or network challenges. I can't tell the offices off the top of my head."

He, however, confirmed that the Harare registry office was currently processing a limited number of IDs — up to 220 per day.

"It depends on how many printers they have, but mostly if they are working normal time, they produce 200, 220 or 230. It will be unfair to make 500 people wait in queues when we know that they will not get them. I tell you, if we were to give green waiting passes only and set aside the plastic ID, we would give even up to 500 per day because the issuance is easy."

Aaron Hamauswa, a human rights activist said access to ID was a basic right.

"It's about our dignity, our ability to participate in society. The government is failing us and we need to make our voices heard," Hamauswa said.

The long wait is a tax on time, a test of patience, a burden borne on weary shoulders.

But in the hushed dawn of Harare, as the sun casts its first golden rays on the patient queuers, a message becomes clear: even in the face of adversity, the Zimbabwean spirit endures.

The dawn patrol marches on, driven by the unyielding dream of a card, a document.

Until then, they stand, they wait, they hope, their silent vigil a testament to a yearning for identity, for recognition, for a place in their own land.

Source - newsday
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