National CARDres?

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

2013-10-cover smallAlthough a globalising world is popularly propagated, it doesn’t take much more than the FIFA World Cup process or a well-publicised battle for top office in a UN Agency to explode the myth. A feverish alignment invariably occurs amongst competing countries representing millions of people often with little in common but ashared language or national flag!


So with respect to our very important 49th Anniversary of Independence which falls on the 24th of October, I felt a need to reflect on two documents that ‘officially’ bind us as a nation. No! This is not another article about the Barotseland Agreement or the dated Rhodesian Federation.


Briefly, the Zambian Identity Documents (ID’s) that may grant privileged access to restricted government buildings and sometimes bursaries, will occasionally stretch to allowing you to cross a friendly border for the day to sight-see or buy a few groceries. They are (1) Your Zambian National Registration Card and (2) Your Zambian Passport.


Driving licenses; personalised telephone, rental, electricity or water bills; and voter cards carry very little weight when your nationality is being scrutinised. But it is worth noting that “proof of residence” is assumed by your holding such. Evidence of “proof of residence” has reached cult-like status when dealing with institutions governed by the Companies Act and perfectly ordinary forms carry the instruction to give “Full permanent residential address (not PO Box).” But does that not regularly translate correctly into just “Zambia” for our highly mobile population?


One of the more memorable experiences I had with the Department of National Registration rang Orwellian. After decades of memorising my NRC number there was a time when completing a routine form that I made a mistake. The response in both speed and efficiency made me doubt my “full and permanent residential address” for a few seconds. Its tone held the same finality as the standard cell phone message “The number you have dialed is not a valid one!” Only, in my case, the letter came in the signature buff envelopes of Zambian officialdom and through the regular post from the pension authority.


I recall going cold, and only fully recovering when I realised that (a) the number quoted was definitely not mine, and (b) I had wrongly transposed a couple of digits. My sense of belonging restored, the error was corrected and I was not so promptly issued with the social security number for which I had applied.


Holding a Zambian NRC of course restricts the public-political ‘space’ we call ours, and by nature of its function the Zambian Passport limits our physical ‘space’. However, in my reflection on Zambian-ness, this little exercise took me to pondering our newly ‘nationalised’ sim-cards. Consider if you will how the prevailing technological advances have bestowed upon us a new ID – and to what extent its special character will restrain our private ‘space’?


Happy Independence Day!


By Chuundu

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