A preliminary piece of legislation aiming to modify Namibia’s system for registering civil status and identification is presently being presented to the country’s parliament for initial reading.
Among the suggested amendments in the bill, which has been introduced by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety, and Security, is a decrease in the lawful age for acquiring a national identification card from 16 to 14.
Additionally, the process of enrolling for a national ID card now incorporates biometrics, which is not explicitly stated in the existing Identification Act of the country, implemented since 1996.
The bill was recently brought to the attention of legislators by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Daniel Kashikola.
As per the government, the primary objective of the bill is to establish a national civil registration system and facilitate the issuance of identity documents. It also encompasses a system for digitally notifying civil events such as births, along with provisions for accessing, verifying, authenticating, and sharing information contained in the civil registry or other records maintained by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
In defense of the proposal to lower the age requirement, the Ministry of Home Affairs argues that at the age of 14, a child’s biometric characteristics, such as fingerprints, are fully developed and can be readily collected. Furthermore, it states that one of the motivations for modifying the age of obtaining an identification card is to ensure that children receive the cards in time for their national examinations.
Kashikola also mentioned that these modifications are being made in anticipation of integrating iris and facial biometrics into Namibia’s digital identity management system, according to the Windhoek Observer.
In a similar vein, neighboring South Africa has also decreased the minimum age for obtaining an identification card from 16 to 10 in a new identification bill that received cabinet approval earlier this year.
The Namibia bill introduces other innovations, including the requirement to provide personal information for ID registration under oath, the establishment of an Age Determination Committee to mediate issues related to alterations in the civil register such as age, and the appointment of registrars of birth, marriage, and death who will serve as commissioners of oath.
Overall, the bill delineates specific provisions concerning the notification and registration of births, deaths, marriages, and divorces, as well as the registration and acquisition of identity documents, verification of information, authentication for identification purposes, and access to information.
Earlier this year, Namibia reached an agreement with Botswana enabling citizens of both countries to use their national identification cards for entry into either territory, thereby facilitating the movement of individuals between the two Southern African nations.