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Government says it is failing to import material for the production of national identity documents, birth certificates and passports due to sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by Western powers led by the United States.

This came out during a hearing by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Security on Monday after Gwanda Residents Association petitioned Parliament on the matter.

Home Affairs ministry permanent secretary Aaron Nhepera said government was failing to import the equipment used in the production of the critical documents due to “illegal” sanctions.

Committee chairperson Levi Mayihlome demanded answers from Nhepera and the deputy registrar-general Ben Mpala on why many people were failing to access these documents.

“There are a lot of administrative and legal issues surrounding the issuance of identity documents. People are having challenges in acquiring primary documents. Since 2019, this committee has been seized with this matter. Practically, nothing is taking place on the ground to improve the situation,” Mayihlome said.

Nhepera responded by saying:

“Lack of resources has led to shortages of materials resulting in accumulation of applications for primary documents. The other challenge is illegal sanctions imposed on our country that have also been a major constraint. For instance, a payment made for an international supplier for a sizeable amount of a consignment a couple of months back was recalled on account of sanctions. Another effort to also acquire some consumables with another partner failed due to the same reason. We are potentially facing a crisis in this area as a result of illegal sanctions,” Nhepera said.

He added that efforts should be made to have sanctions removed.

Nhepera also blamed the COVID-19 outbreak for shortages.

“COVID-19 has also been a major drawback. The department was not able to function normally due to lockdown restrictions. At one point, the department was functioning with only 10% of its manpower requirements.  Quite a number of the department staff contracted the disease and some succumbed to the scourge. As a result of the pandemic, we are up to now offering limited services,” Nhepera told the committee.

He said areas which were affected by the Gukurahundi atrocities in the Matabeleland and Midlands regions would be prioritised when the issuing of IDs and birth certificates resumed.

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