The sweltering summer heat beats mercilessly on the vast swathes of Mazwi village, on the outskirts of Pumula a township in Bulawayo.
A breeze often blows, towards the muddy houses, a welcome gesture from nature but it is not enough to cool the villagers here.
Emma Nkomo, 73 Mazwi village sits miserably under a shed as she sobs softly.
She has been denied an identification card (ID) for the sixth time by authorities.
Nkomo’s mother, South African by birth could not help her acquire the important documents following her father’s death in 1980.
A government blitz conducted last year to help thousands get IDs left people like Nkomo dejected.
Authorities had raised Nkomo’s hopes when they requested for her fingerprints but before she could get the ID, the 73-year-old was told she did not qualify.
“I do not have an ID because my mother does not have an ID. My father died before we could all get IDs,” Nkomo told The NewsReportLive.
“At Msiteli, we had a hard time. Some of the questions which the officials asked, I could not answer,” weeps Nkomo.
Unlike other villagers, who often benefit from food handouts Nkomo has to rely on her mother for survival and her little garden.
Still alive at 95, Nkomo’s mother can only offer support for her elderly child.
“It is painful because i get left out of programs where others are benefitting. Others are getting money from money transfer agents but even if someone sends me money, I cannot get it,” she moaned.
Stateless Zimbabweans have borne the brunt of not being recognized as local citizens and with the elections slated for 23. August, they cannot choose leaders of their choice.
Like many other settlements, the situation in Mazwi is a heartrending tale of statelessness in Zimbabwe.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 300 000 people are currently at risk of statelessness, while the exact number is unknown due to lack of official data.
“This is not the first time to try and get an ID, every year I try in vain. They even asked for a bribe, but i cannot pay the bribe,” she said.
Magarete Sibanda, 68 who grew up on a settlement has never owned an ID.
After the death of her parents, Sibanda was left to fend for herself, including shouldering the burden of acquiring documents.
Many like Sibanda have passed on statelessness to their children, what Amnesty International describes as a vicious cycle.
“I just grew up doing menial jobs for people but when I had grown older, I tried to get birth certificate but failed. They said if you do not have parents, you cannot get a birth certificate. I even got to the point of giving birth to my first child without documents. My second child was born as I continued to try to get documents, that is when I decided to stay in the Squatter camp. Both my children do not have documentation,” she recounted her ordeal.
“I was born in Zimbabwe, but I do not know why I am being denied an ID. My children do not have anything, or any form of documents. it is like we are not born here. I would be grateful if we get help. Because we cannot get help when you don’t have.”
Community coordinator, Musiphili Tshabalala is inundated with requests for IDs from villagers.
“I have 48 people from here who do not have documentation and it is very dire here, since it is a peri-urban area. Most people lost their parents, who also did not have documents. it then becomes a cycle of statelessness in the community,” she said.
25-year-old Simelinkosi Phiri, 25 has also been battling to get an ID.
Now a mother of three, she fears her children will also fail become part of a growing population of stateless Zimbabweans.
“I have tried for years,” she said.
“My husband also does not have documents. We just met like that. That is why we cannot register our children. Authorities always ask for a bribe, and it is an impediment,” Phiri said.
Christina Makombe ,70 is also desperately seeking helping to get her grandchild a birth certificate.
“It has been six years now, seeking help for myself and my grandchild. Whenever I attempt to get a birth certificate for her, everything crumbles. They say I have right to get the birth certificate for my grandchild, but since I do not have an ID, it becomes difficult. She is very intelligent, and she is looking forward to writing her grade 7 exams next year, but it is all in doubt,” Makombe told The NewsReportLive.
While government is battling with a growing number of stateless Zimbabweans seeking documentation, local leaders are also coming up with way to assist.
Councilor, Sikululekile Moyo, ward 17 said:” My wish is that government could help the elderly get IDs so that it would be easier to help the young ones.”
Zimbabweans will choose a new leader in August but for stateless Zimbabweans like Nkomo and her neighbors, voting remains a pipe dream.
This article is part of The NewsReporLive’s Project Zivai (Get Informed) Free2Express programme supported by Magamba Network.