Migration News - July 1999

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July 1999

A colleague on a visit to Windhoek last year tried to seek the company of his own compatriots in a foreign land than be with total strangers speaking alien tongues when his Namibian host suggested they drive to the 'Zambian sector'. "But as it turned out, I was disappointed because most of these guys were actually from Congo. What puzzled me most was that these guys had Zambian documents which they, of course, claimed were genuine," speaks the bemused fellow. Of late, stories of Congolese nationals caught with fake documents purporting to be Zambians, and sometimes with forged immigration papers, have become increasingly common. How then do these documents land in the wrong hands? How do the Congolese -- and any other foreigners possessing such papers -- obtain such important papers with much ease? But it is not only fake documents foreigners have been caught with, but, examination certificates too. Involvement of the dons of the counterfeit trade from Matero 'university' cannot be argued, despite the previous set-backs they have suffered on the hands of law enforcers. Nevertheless, although it is largely undoubted that some officials from the immigration department are involved in the racket of issuing these documents through by-pass of legal channels, national registration, immigration and examinations council officials say it is far more than that. They claim that ordinary members of the public have contributed to this scourge's upswing, some out of genuine ignorance of the law, others knowingly and fully cognizant of the legal implications of having false documents.

We have to strengthen our laws on immigration as well as naturalisation. Personnel in departments dealing with issuance of documents of such import must be constantly rotated to avoid them becoming corrupt as they become too familiar. As it is oft-said, familiarity breeds contempt. "But how many know that these documents are supposed to be surrendered to the Registrar of births and deaths? Let alone the council? Some observers say that people are too preoccupied thinking of how they are going to get out of their poverty than think about going to the registrar's office, especially if the deceased was not in gainful employment. Some who do know the monetary value of selling these documents to the foreigners, however, have been doing so with apparent impunity and seemingly, the long arm of the law has not caught up yet. Could Zambia be paying a heavy price for being too hospitable?


Updated November 2, 1999