Africa’s vulnerable go unseen: Zuma

7 September 2012

African’s most vulnerable people are unseen and unaccounted for because there is no official record of their existence, says President Jacob Zuma.

Speaking at the 2nd Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Conference in Durban on Thursday, Zuma expressed concern over Africa’s scandal of invisibility – a situation where people are born and die without leaving a trace of their existence in any legal record.

“It has meant that the most vulnerable people in Africa remain unseen and not counted. They practically do not exist.”

It was important for the citizens of all of Africa’s 54 countries to be registered – something that could only achieved through efficient civil and registration systems, Zuma told the delegates.

The social inclusion agenda

Once everyone in Africa was registered and accounted for, the continent could plan better for its people and its development.

“Central to the advancement of Africa’s development is the social inclusion agenda, which we cannot successfully accomplish without proper and modern civil registration systems.”

The conference was part of the exercise of Africa conducting its own affairs, part of which meant undoing the legacy of colonialism which had deprived Africans of identity and citizenship, Zuma said.

“Africa cannot fulfil its development agenda unless we know who we are, where we live, work and play and what we need to better our living conditions on the continent. Births, marriages, divorces or deaths are all vital events that must be recorded in any country.”

‘Not just about nationality’

In the current age of globalisation and greater interdependence among countries, civil registration was much more than about just identifying a person’s nationality, Zuma added.

“It is also a prerequisite for the successful implementation of African regional integration, as it facilitates the smooth movement of people among countries.

“Furthermore, the benefits of good vital registration have a far reaching impact on broad developmental programmes such as the planning and monitoring of education, health, social security, unemployment.”

This included countries’ abilities to measure health inequalities and priorities, monitor trends and evaluate development programmes.

Civil registration and vital statistics were also important in the implementation of policies for community planning, monitoring inequalities and future planning and resource allocation, Zuma said.

‘Critical for promotion of democracy’

“More importantly, civil registration is a critical tool for the promotion of democracy, in the event of the compilation of voters’ rolls.”

Africans found themselves promoting civil registration in day and age due to the history of the continent and respective countries.

“For example, South Africa, like other countries in Africa, comes from a history of colonial and apartheid regimes where most of the citizens were denied their right to citizenship,” the President said.

“As a result, a largely fragmented and selective civil registration system was used to perpetuate the discrimination and marginalisation of the majority of the population.”

The colonial and apartheid regimes had successfully used this system to prevent the African masses from exercising their right to vote and choose their own governments, Zuma added.

Since 1994, the South African government has worked hard to ensure that citizens reclaimed their birth right and that their dignity was restored.

The country had recorded many successes with regards to its civil registration system and campaigns, Zuma noted.

He assured delegates from the rest of the Africa that Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who headed South Africa’s civil registration campaign in recent years, would invest similar efforts into regional campaigns when she took up office as the African Union Commission chairperson.