The people of Matabeleland have welcomed the proposal by the government to issue identity documents to Zimbabweans living outside the country, saving them from the hassle of physically coming back home to secure them.
Almost every family in Matabeleland due to the region’s proximity to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia, has one or two people living outside the country.
Securing identity documents such as birth certificates, national identity and passports, has been a challenge for those in the Diaspora, resulting in many who cannot travel back home remaining undocumented.
However, on Monday, Home Affairs Minister, Cain Mathema, disclosed that the government would soon embark on an outreach to foreign nations to issue Zimbabweans domiciled there with identity documents.
“My ministry has agreed that an outreach programme by the Central Registry Department should be embarked upon in the near future to provide vital registration documents such as birth certificates, national identity documents to selected countries with our nationals living in the Diaspora,” revealed Mathema.
He said the decision was arrived at after consultations with, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Mathema said during the outreach, they would also be receiving passport applications for processing back home.
Currently, while Zimbabweans living outside the country can access passport application forms at embassies, payment and submission are done locally, something seen as cumbersome by many.
Mathema said that was bound to change for the better.
“After agreement with the Ministry of Finance, it will be possible for people in the Diaspora to pay the fees for these documents, the equivalent approved fees in the currencies of their host countries,” said Mathema.
He further explained the passport office would be processing applications within 10 working days, before sending them back to the Diaspora.
“This is a very good move,” said Fortune Mlalazi who is based in South Africa.
“In fact here in South Africa it has been there but the difference is that you do not collect your documents here in South Africa. You only send your details via the embassy then someone collects for you in Zimbabwe.”
He said allowing them to apply for and collect the documents in the countries they are domiciled would ensure that many people get access to them.
“So if you are collecting from here, it will be a very good move including for those who are here illegally. It would also help because we often have challenges when someone dies and they do not have papers. It becomes difficult to repatriate the body,” said Mlalazi.
He challenged the government to reach out to all the countries where there are Zimbabweans.
“This one, we can’t oppose it. It is a very good move,” added Mlalazi.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Mabhena, said the initiative by the government to document Zimbabweans in the Diaspora was a step in the right direction.
“We have a number of Zimbabweans who are not documented,” said Mabhena.
“Some of them do not have birth certificates, Zimbabwean IDs and passports, so this initiative comes at the right time particularly for those that are in South Africa as the South African government is reviewing its Immigration Act in which we think they will continue to document Zimbabweans which are in South Africa, so those that do not have passports or IDs might miss out.”
He said in rolling out the exercise, the Zimbabwean government should work together with the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa.
He added there was also a need to involve civic society organisations to ensure no one remains undocumented.