Arrest the rot at Registrar General ’s Office

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YESTERDAY we carried a disturbing report in which residents reveal difficulties and frustrations they are encountering in obtaining simple identity documents (IDs) during the ongoing voter registration exercise.

Southern Eye Editorial

While acquiring public documents such as IDs and birth certificates should naturally be a stroll in the park, it would seem the Registrar General (RG)’s Office is content in seeing citizens battling to secure these precious documents that are crucial in enabling people to register as voters for the pending make-or-break harmonised polls.

Zimbabweans went to war principally because they were being denied the right to vote in their own country. Remember the one men one vote slogan! But it would seem there are deliberate and calculated machinations somewhere up there to deny most ordinary citizens the right to vote 33 years after independence. Despite Cabinet recently directing the RG to allow people without proof of residence to register upon production of an affidavit stating their abode, it would seem officials continue to turn away hundreds of people.

Last month this newspaper also published a story of John Mhlanga who failed to acquire an ID after records at the RG’s Office showed that he was dead. Mhlanga was back at our offices last week, complaining bitterly that the RG’s Office was dilly-dallying in helping him acquire an ID despite high-sounding promises to do so.

The same week it was reported elsewhere that an octogenarian was asked by officials from the RG to bring his parents if he wanted to acquire an ID.

Gracious God! We wonder what these people smoke at work. Did they expect the octogenarian to dig up the bones of his long-buried parents as proof that he was the only surviving species in his family lineage?

Did they want him to take a picture of their graves as part of the proof that he was born of Zimbabwean parents? While we acknowledge that the registration of voters is a sensitive issue, particularly as we trudge towards elections, sanity and common sense must prevail in the RG’s Office. An authentic affidavit confirming residence should suffice to fast-track the registration of lodgers — and there are hundreds of thousands of them in a country in which the housing waiting list runs into millions.

In Bulawayo alone, the housing waiting list is estimated at over 100 000 and these are lodgers who need proof of residence from their landlords, most of whom are in the Diaspora. The ostrich mentality in the RG’s Office, whose officials have on several occasions been accused of demanding bribes from desperate citizens, points to a bigger rot in that department.

Be that as it may, the onus is now on the RG’s Office to prove us and the nation at large wrong that it has conducted itself professionally and diligently over the ongoing voter registration exercise.