I elect to isolate and appreciate the aforesaid two constitutional provisions as siblings. We devolve State power in order to bring core services closer to citizens and communities, thus facilitating access, enabling participation and achieving inclusivity and fairness. Accessing rights and benefits promised by the country’s Constitution must not be allowed to be burden and a cost to the citizen. Our understanding of devolution thus encompasses resource allocation and bringing public goods and services, those promised by our Constitution especially, physically closer to people and communities by decentralising arms of the State.
I am the first one to admit that our performance in the delivery of birth certificates, identity cards, passports or other identity and travel documents to the citizenry has not always been satisfactory.
This chequered performance motivated me to place this vital public activity area under close scrutiny, including paying unscheduled visits to offices of the Registrar-General.
Time was when the situation was quite dire, with citizens stuck in long queues and often waiting for more than a year to get documents which our Constitution regard as a right. Especially affected were our citizens in remote rural communities and in the Diaspora. Government thus had to intervene decisively, and to think outside the box to bring this to an end. Lately, delivery has improved somewhat, even then with sporadic hiccups here and there, now and then, as was witnessed only a week ago.
The strident outcry which followed that temporary interruption of services last week again reminds us that indeed, identity and travel documents are a human right whose delivery to the citizen must never be delayed or delivered in a burdensome way.
Pursuant to our Constitution and the promise we made to our citizens, Government has taken several steps to ensure identity and travel documents are delivered efficiently and smoothly. Firstly, we have made the delivery of these key documents promised under Chapter 3 a key marker of our whole transition and thrust towards devolved governance as dictated by Chapter 14 of our Constitution. That is to say Government gauges its success in devolving power and decentralising services by how well it delivers on identity and travel documents. This makes both categories of these documents an important key result area (KRA) and performance indicator for my Administration.
On December 14, 2021, I launched the E-Passport in line with the worldwide drift towards biometric data-based identity and travel documents. Today Zimbabwe ranks among a few countries in Africa to issue E-Passports in line with the United Nations (UN) recommendations. This move was more than mere compliance with international standards; it was our strategy for migrating to a cheaper and faster technology of producing these vital documents so the citizen is better served. As I write, the turnaround time for an E-Passport is now down to a mere seven days, itself a vast improvement from the year-long agonising wait citizens were subjected to before getting a passport. We thus are now closer than ever before to realising citizen rights under Chapter 3 of our Constitution.
In my interaction with many rural communities, especially in those areas affected by disturbances which visited us in the early years of our Independence, it became very clear to me that many of our citizens did not have birth certificates, identity cards, let alone passports. Those affected felt they lived on the margins of citizenship, and rightly so.
Continued next page