Tuesday, 1 March 2022

DESPERATE PEOPLE SLEEPING IN QUEUES FOR IDs


EVERY morning, people crowd outside the offices of the Civil Registry Department in Bulawayo forming snaking queues in their quest to acquire national identity cards, a process that continues to be a nightmare in the city.

Others have actually resorted to braving nocturnal mosquito bites by sleeping outside the Civil Registry offices to earn pole position in the queue.

Accessing identity cards has of late become a nightmare for people in Bulawayo, with only 40 people being served per day. The number of people being attended to per day is way below the hundreds who throng the offices daily to acquire the document.

Residents who spoke to a Chronicle news crew said acquiring identity cards has been marred by corrupt tendencies and acts of malpractice, which have resulted in some people bribing security guards manning the entrance to get first preference.

For Ms Elizabeth Tshuma of Cowdray Park, it’s an agonising call of patience for her as she has been sleeping in the queue for the past three days without joy.

“I have been sleeping at eMsitheli (Civil Registry offices) for the past three nights with the hope that I would acquire a national identity card, but it seems to be difficult. They have been telling me to come back again and again and this is my fourth attempt,” she said.

Miss Audrey Tshabalala, an Ordinary Level pupil at a local school said: “This is the most terrifying moment of life coming here for the past two days and getting all sorts of excuses. What is most disheartening is that whenever you try to wake up early, someone who comes later goes in first simply because they would have bribed the security guard and other officers.”

Mr Langelihle Dliwayo said bribes are openly being demanded upfront by officials who are using some informal traders operating at the Civil Registry offices as fronts.

“We have actually seen some officials demanding bribes of between US$10 and US$20 from desperate document seekers in return for preferential treatment. In fact, my neighbour recently got his ID after bribing an official to facilitate for the quick movement of their papers,” he said.

Mr Mlungisi Ndlovu of Gwabalanda said he has been camped at the Civil Registry offices for the past two days.

“I’ve been sleeping here for two days now and there seems to be no hope of acquiring the document given the chaotic scenes that we are witnessing here. You can’t do anything without an ID card, which means I have to be patient and continue coming here,” he said.

A Chronicle news crew observed long winding queues of people waiting to acquire ID cards at the offices.

The area was teeming with some people coming from as far as Nkayi and Tsholotsho for the documents.

One of the people in the queue who declined to be named alleged that the department offices are creating an artificial crisis by refusing to serve locals.

Mr Simba Shumba of Magwegwe North said because of his failure to access the ID, he could not register to vote under the first phase of mobile voter registration which ended on February 28.

The mobile voter registration is in two phases, and the first started on February 1 and ended on February 28, while the second phase will run from 11 to 30 April.

Efforts to contact the acting Registrar-General Mr Henry Machiri were fruitless as he was cutting the call on his mobile phone last night.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Deputy Minister Ruth Maboyi said once adequate resources were availed, Government will next month roll out a national identity cards blitz.

She said the Civil Registry Department will launch the blitz from April 1 as Government steps up efforts to allow citizens to acquire documents necessary to register for next year’s general elections.

The programme will run until September, depending on uptake and demand.

She warned corrupt officials in the department against engaging in corruption, saying those caught would face the full wrath of the law.

“We are getting reports of some of our officers being involved in corruption. Government does not condone corruption and those caught on the wrong side of the law will face the music,” she said.

“Everyone should join hands with us in combating corruption and it’s important that as citizens we complement law enforcements in the fight against all forms of vice.”

Civil Registry Offices across the country have been saddled with a backlog of documents for some time as Zimbabweans try to get identification documents.

With the country set to go for general elections next year, identity documents are crucial for one to register as a voter.

Government has already approved the budget and teams have started preparing for the massive exercise.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe recently announced that Government does not want to leave anyone behind during the coming identity documents exercise with his ministry planning to issue at least two million national IDs and birth certificates during the upcoming mobile registration blitz. Chronicle

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