MASERU — Stringent requirements to acquire national identity cards (IDs) under the multi-million maloti National Identity Civil Registry (NICR) project have been relaxed.
The decision to relax the requirements for getting the IDs comes after a public outcry over the stringent rules which many Basotho said had made it “impossible” for them to be registered during the pilot phase of the project which began in July.
Home Affairs Minister Joang Molapo this week told the Lesotho Times that his ministry had decided to relax the requirements after numerous complaints from frustrated people who could not easily access the plethora of documents originally required for the issuance of the IDs in the pilot phase.
Many prospective ID card holders had complained about the “impossible” number of documents that they were being asked to bring for their registrations to be finalised.
Among the earlier stringent requirements for registration was the need for anyone wanting an ID to produce either an old birth certificate, a medical booklet given at birth or baptismal certificate from a religious denomination.
Also required was a marriage certificate for the applicant’s parents and certified copies of their passports, a mandatory letter from a local chief proving one’s residential address and birth place as well as confirming a person’s parentage and actual date of birth.
Under the new regulations disclosed by Molapo, everyone above 30 years of age is now only required to produce a letter from their chief stating their birth date, birth place and details of their biological parents as well as the applicant’s own passport.
Upon presenting these, any person above 30 will be issued with a new birth certificate and the ID.
However, Molapo said, based on experiences from the pilot process, those below 30 are still expected to produce the old documents because of the assumption that their parents are still alive to facilitate obtaining all the documentation.
Where these cannot all be found, the letter from the chief is mandatory.
The letter must bear testimony from the parents, guardian or relative confirming the birth details of the applicant.
The applicant’s passport and parents’ passports, if they are still alive, will also be required. The pilot phase began in July when the first ID was issued to King Letsie III.
The pilot process had been expected to last six months but this was ended last week after the registration of more than 40 000 people against an initial target of 20 000.
Molapo said the Ministry of Home Affairs had now received money from the Ministry of Finance to embark on the mass registration process though he could not immediately disclose the figure allocated for the mammoth project.
More registration centres are now going to be opened across the country and more Basotho are expected to enroll for registration. Only six centres had been operational during the pilot phase in six of Lesotho’s 10 districts.
Despite the unhappiness of many Basotho who complained that they could not easily register during the pilot phase because of the cumbersome nature of the process, Molapo described the pilot phase as a huge success.
This was because it had provided a good learning curve because of the feedback from applicants which had now caused his Ministry to relax the stringent requirements.
“The pilot was a success . . . it was also a learning curve because we were able to understand the challenges in the process,” said Molapo.
“Now we are ready to make adjustments to the requirements and ensure a smooth mass registration process for all Basotho.”
He said one of the major findings in the pilot process had been the difficulties faced by people above 30 in meeting the requirements of producing baptismal certificates, birth medical booklets or birth certificates.
People in the same group could also not easily produce a mandatory letter from local chiefs proving one’s residential and birth details, among other things.
Tumelo Raboloetse, the NCIR director, also described the pilot phase as a success from which several lessons had been learnt.
“This was our first time to implement a project of this magnitude and we have acquitted ourselves fairly well considering that we surpassed the initial target of 20 000 registrations in the initial phase to enroll 40 000 Basotho,” Raboletse told the Lesotho Times.
He said the pilot phase had also exposed Basotho’s poor record keeping practices.
“We therefore realised that we were bound to experience serious challenges if we were to continue insisting on absolute compliance with all the documentation originally required,” Raboloetse said.
The process was specifically complicated for applicants whose parents had died and who had lost their documents. The simplified rules would now enable any such applicants to get relatives to give testimonials to local chiefs about their birth details and enable them to apply for the IDs.
The ID project, expected to cost hundreds of millions, is important because it will for the first time provide Basotho with the first common identity system which will facilitate commerce.
It has nonetheless been mired in controversy beginning with how an Israeli company providing the technology for the project, Nikuv International, won the deal without an open tender amid serious allegations of corruption and bribery.