Mandlela Maphosa, a village head in the San community says birth certificates and identity documents have improved access to national opportunities

TSHOLOTSHO, Mtshina – For far too long, the San community in remote Mtshina area, Tsholotsho, Matabeleland North, had been denied the right to identify as Zimbabwean citizens.

Government’s decades of neglect created a plethora of obstacles to the marginalised community and these include failure to access education, healthcare, and jobs.

Last year, however, the government instituted a nationwide mobile registration exercise to assist vulnerable communities to access identity documents.

The Swedish embassy recently availed a US$5.8 million grant through UNICEF to complement the Zimbabwe government’s efforts to promote child protection programmes.

There are great expectations that the public service ministry in collaboration with UNICEF will reach vulnerable communities spread across the country with the civil registration process.

For the San community, the registration exercise has brought access to social services, opportunities and prospects of erasing an ugly history of exclusion that is soul destroying.

“I am happy that many people from my community received birth certificates and identity documents as a result of this government initiative, though a few did not,” says Mandlela Maphosa, village head of the San community said during a recent media tour organised by UNICEF- Zimbabwe.

“Right now, I am proud that two distinct members of my community are now prison officers, thanks to this registration exercise.

“We urge the government to track down and assist members who did not receive national IDs or may have lost them.”

The San community consists of 55 households with a maximum of 14 people and a minimum of 5 people on average.

Before the registration exercise, pregnant women and girls experienced difficulties accessing maternity healthcare and this exposed them to constant danger of life threatening, childbirth-related injuries, including obstetric fistula as many resorted to home-based births.

Sibongile Mpofu, a member of the San community, said the exercise had given her community a lifeline, as it now had access to social services.

“Women from our community in Mtshina now have unhindered access to healthcare, particularly pregnant women who were previously shunned due to the lack of national identification.

“I have seven children, those above 16 recently obtained national IDs while those below 16 acquired birth certificates.

“Now my children will be able to attend school without encountering any difficulties from the school administration.

“We want to thank the government for finally recognising our community as citizens,” Mpofu said.

Before the registration exercise, men in the San community struggled to make ends meet through both formal and part-time employment because they had no identity cards.

Nicholas Maphosa, another member of the community, also said having a national ID has made it easier for him to get part-time work and feed his family.

“With national IDs, it is now easier for us men to get work, and our children can go to school without worry, knowing that when they finish their education, they will be able to find work.

“Before I had a national identity card, it was difficult for me to secure piece-work, and potential employers were suspicious of me and assumed I was some sort of criminal because I did not have identity documents.

“Now that I have a national ID, being frowned upon when looking for piece work is now a thing of the past,” Nicholas Maphosa said. — ZimLive

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