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The Lowdown Hub

‘We cannot vote or get jobs’: the plight of 300,000 Zimbabweans without documents Amnesty is calling

Winnet Zhamini, centre, flanked by her sisters Dudzai, left, and Fela. Their father was from Malawi, and their mother died without arranging their documents. Photographs: Nyasha Chingono

At 45, Philimon Mashava has never had a bank account or a phone in his name.

He has never had a birth certificate and, without documents, Mashava’s stateless existence has meant him missing out on school and countless job opportunities, as employers want some form of identification.

Being locked out of citizenship in the southern African country is an issue for an estimated 300,000 Zimbabweans, according to Amnesty International.

Mashava has survived by street trading. Born in Chipinge to a Mozambican father who returned home and a Zimbabwean mother who died young, his five children are on track to inherit his statelessness.

“Getting an ID has always been tough because my father’s relatives are in Mozambique and there is no way of getting in contact with them. No one knows exactly where they are,” Mashava says from his home in Hopley, six miles (10km) from the centre of the capital, Harare.

Philimon Mashava and his children do not have official documents. He cannot trace his relatives to help him with the process