Traditional leaders and civil society organisations have differed on whether the National Registration Bureau (NRB) should maintain the policy of attaching an expiry date to National Identity (ID) card validity period.
The development comes at a time when, between January 1 and December 31 this year, 2.9 million national IDs would expire, costing the government K5 billion.
Group Village Head Mnjolo, under Senior Chief Tambala in the Dedza District, said his subjects did not have the financial muscle to enable them to pay for ID replacement.
“When the national ID card expires, people are advised to contribute K2,500 for it to be replaced. This is a lot of money by village standards,” Mnjolo said.
Village Head Mtitimira concurred with Mnjolo, adding that, apart from paying K2,500 to have their national IDs replaced, his subjects are covering long distances to get to registration centres.
“The process of registration is, in itself, tiring. There is no registration centre and people have to spend money on transport. It also takes time for the national ID card to be delivered to us. Let the authorities remove the expiry date from the national document and people will be saved from further trouble,” Mtitimira said.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Executive Director Michael Kaiyatsa said the traditional leaders were raising “valid concerns”.
“Once acquired, citizenship is a lifetime right that can only be taken away by the State on specified grounds. According to international best practice, national IDs are issued for life. They do not expire. African countries such as Botswana, Rwanda and Kenya follow this practice,” Kaiyatsa said.
However, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Gift Trapence backed NRB, saying there is a “valid” reason an expiry date has been included on the national ID document.
“People change features over time, hence HRDC does not see a problem with the requirement that the ID should be expiring after a minimum of 10 years,” Trapence said.
NRB spokesperson Norman Fulatira said forgoing the expiry-date requirement would mean going steps backwards in terms of national development.
“We, as a bureau, understand the concerns of the traditional leaders but having open-ended IDs will be retrogressive for the country. What we should be fighting for is having registration offices at every trading centre, as is the case in other countries,” Fulatira said.
Meanwhile, Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda has indicated that the government has set aside K400 million for the procurement of blank national IDs for new applicants and those renewing their documents.