Government is working to build the capacity of traditional leaders to be able to issue birth and death confirmation records for those who are born or die outside health institutions.
A birth record is a requirement for one to get a birth certificate for a child and the document is currently issued at clinics and hospitals only when a child is born.
Mothers who give birth at home or anywhere outside a health institution are required to be accompanied by a witness to be able to apply for a birth certificate for the child.
Government, through the Civil Registry Department, is seeking to empower chiefs, headman and village heads to issue birth and death notification records.
This comes as Government has since empowered chiefs to be able to solemnise marriages as the Second Republic continues to decentralise services closer to the people.
The Civil Registry Department is hosting an inter-ministerial three-day Review and Validation of Comprehensive Assessment Report of Zimbabwe’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CVRS) Systems workshop here, where active notification of births and deaths by traditional leaders was raised.
The workshop is an implementation of a resolution made at the 2nd Conference of Africa Ministers Responsible for Civil Registrations in South Africa in 2012, that all Africa Union member states should assess their civil registry systems to identify strengths and weaknesses to come up with strategies to improve their registration systems and vital statistics.
Most African countries have since undertaken their CVRS assessments and Zimbabwe, in collaboration with the United Nations Children Education Fund (Unicef) commenced its assessment in June 2022, said Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Permanent Secretary Dr Gerald Gwinji in an interview on the sidelines of the workshop.
He said Government is doing all it can to make it easy to access vital records such as birth, death, marriage and divorce certificates, as well as travel documents.
“You will understand that when you are born in a clinic or hospital you are issued with a birth record, a document that you use to acquire the birth certificate. We are now saying not all people are born in hospitals as some are born at home in the traditional set-up but also need to have birth certificates.
“So empowering chiefs, headman and other local leaders that the chief might identify to help in that process is what we are aiming at. They will issue out birth records, designed slightly different from what you get in the hospital but carrying the same information and the same authority for you to get a birth certificate,” said Dr Gwinji.
He said Government will roll out training for traditional leaders who will be identified to offer the services for smooth implementation of the system preferable in the second half of the year.
“The process that we are going through today is to validate the suggestions that have come through as to how we can do that. After that we will take our strategy, costed as it is, to Cabinet for approval and once Cabinet approves, we then roll out. We don’t expect this to go beyond June before we get Cabinet authorisation and roll out the process.
“So we do hope that will lessen the burden on parents and guardians of children born out of hospital but still require this vital birth record,” said Dr Gwinji.
Village heads already informally notify of death and burial of their subjects and the new set-up will officialise that.
“What they will issue is a confirmation of a death and a burial in their area. We now want that to be a document that is standard and easy to produce. It’s like a burial order basically but produced by the rural leadership for those that can’t go to the Registry Office and that record will help in applying for a death certificate,” he said.
Speaking to journalists, Registrar General Mr Henry Tawona Machiri said groundwork has been laid.
“We are implementing it this year as we try to improve through active notification of births and deaths.
“Basically, when a child is born out of hospital we require witnesses to accompany parents when they come the register for birth certificate and we would like to stop this by empowering traditional leaders who will be issuing what we call birth confirmation records.
“This will enable parents to go on their own to apply for birth certificates for their child with a record issued by a traditional leader within a village which they stay in,” he said. The workshop is being attended by heads of various Governments that are members of the CVRS inter-ministerial team.