Fri, 09 Feb 2018 09:10:33 +0000
Dr. Eustarckio Kazonga
THE registration of villages and their inhabitants is based on the Registration and Development of Villages Act, Chapter 289 of the laws of Zambia.
The Act defines a “village” as a settlement in a rural area of which there is a Headman recognised as such by all or a majority of the villagers and their Chief under their customary law.
Each village has a Headman/woman who is defined as a villager who is recognised as the Headman of a village in a rural area by all or a majority of the other villagers under their customary law to be their Headman and who is also recognised as such by their Chief.
This article, therefore, focuses on statistics usage in the registration of villages and their inhabitants as contained in the village registers.
Functions of a Headman
In giving context to the registration of villages and their inhabitants, let me begin with the functions of a Headman as provided for in the Registration and Development of Villages Act as follows: A Headman shall:
(a) Prepare and maintain the village register for his/her village in which shall be recorded, in so far as they can be ascertained, the following particulars in respect of such village and its inhabitants:
(i) the name of the village;
(ii) the name of the Headman;
(iii) the name in full of every inhabitant;
(v) date or apparent year of birth;
(vi) place of birth;
(vii) race or declared national status;
(viii) number of national registration card issued under section eight of the National Registration Act;
(ix) date on which an inhabitant ceases to be an inhabitant in his village;
(x) date of death of an inhabitant; and
(xi) such other particulars as may be prescribed;
(B) whenever required by his Chief, permit his/her Chief to inspect and to take a copy of the entries in the village register for the purpose of compiling and maintaining the master village register;
(C) in any event, at least once in every six months, furnish his/her Chief with the information relating to any inhabitant who, during the previous six months, has ceased to be an inhabitant for any reason whatsoever, and likewise furnish the necessary information to his Chief within the like period in respect of any new inhabitant in his village.
Civil Registration and Vital Statistics
A civil registration system aims to record all vital events occurring in a country.
In rural areas village registers can be used as part of the civil registration and vital statistics system. Unlike a Census of Population and Housing, the civil registration system is continuous. The United Nations Statistics Division defines civil registration as “the continuous, permanent, compulsory and universal recording of the occurrence and characteristics of vital events pertaining to the population as provided through decree or regulation in accordance with the legal requirements of a country.” Complete coverage, accuracy and timeliness of civil registration are essential for quality vital statistics, which can be used for planning of human development.
It is, therefore, necessary to know the size and characteristics of a village’s or chiefdom’s population on a timely basis as a prerequisite to effective socio-economic planning through village registers.
Civil registration systems, as partly covered through village registers, generate administrative data, which serve as the basis for databases that can be compiled to produce vital statistics.
Vital statistics are therefore a by-product of the registration system.
Vital statistics, also known as vital events or vital records, are an important source of demographic data.
Statistical explanations are given to events such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc.
Data provided by vital statistics relating to trend and growth of population in the various age groups and on the whole, can help planners and administrators to plan and formulate policies for public health, education, housing, water supply etc.
Vital statistics help in analysing the population trends at any given point of time in an area i.e. village or chiefdom. Functionally, they try to fill the gap between two censuses.
They relate to the composition, size, distribution and growth of population in the villages and Chiefdoms. It is on their basis that population projections can be made.
In the context of villages, some of the functions of Chiefs Affairs Section in the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs are: developing a system for maintaining the chiefs and Village Register/Directory; enforcing procedures for registration of villages; facilitating the procedures for registration of villages; and maintaining a register of all villages in Zambia. With these supervisory roles, village registers are prepared.
As already alluded to, a village register contains variables which in turn generate data on village names, names of headmen, names of every inhabitant in the village, sex of inhabitant, date and place of birth, national registration card number, date when an inhabitant cease to an inhabitant in a village, and date of birth of an inhabitant.
This data contained in the register can be analysed and interpreted for decision-making purposes.
The name of a village is supped to be unique and when villages share a name, numbers are used to uniquely identify them. For example, if two villages are named as Malulu, they will be uniquely identified as Malulu1 and Malulu2. Sizes of villages in a chiefdom can be compared based on the number of inhabitants.
Preparation and Maintenance of Village Registers
The preparation and maintenance of village registers is the responsibility of a headman and it they are a potential sources for vital statistics.
However, considerable inputs are needed to improve accuracy of births and deaths, as there are no functional systems for the collation and analysis of data at the traditional authority level (Singogo et a.l, 2013). The usage, completeness and accuracy of the village register contents need to be formally evaluated.
It is the responsibility of every inhabitant of a village to furnish the required particulars in the village register when required by his/her Headman and shall attend before him/her at such place and time as the Headman may appoint and notify him either individually or collectively with other inhabitants of the village. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of every person who, having been registered as an inhabitant of a village ceases to be an inhabitant of that village, either by becoming an inhabitant of another village or otherwise, shall inform the Headman of his/her village that he/she has ceased to be an inhabitant of that village.
Thereupon, the Headman of his/her village shall amend his village register accordingly; and, if he/she becomes an inhabitant of another village, he/she shall forthwith inform the Headman of the second-named village that he/she has become an inhabitant of such village and, thereupon, the Headman of the second-named village shall inform his/her Chief of such change of habitation.
This enables continuous updating of records in the register as changes take place.
Master Village Register
A Master Village Register contains village registers in a particular area such as a chiefdom or country.
The Act states that a Chief shall in his area (a) ensure that every Headman duly performs the duties imposed upon him and (b) compile and maintain the master village register of all villages in his area.
The Master Village Register can be used for many purposes such as planning for development programmes and projects such as, sinking of boreholes, construction of schools and clinics etc.
Change of Village
The Act states that a Headman shall, on request made to him in writing by a citizen of Zambia, record in the village register, or such of the particulars as are furnished by him to the Headman, if the person who makes such request satisfies the conditions.
There are also special provisions for registration of certain persons such as (a) he has attained the age of at least fourteen years at the time of making such request; (b) he, either of his parents, one of his grandparents or great grandparents was born in that village; (c) he is not an inhabitant of that village or of any other village.
Offences and Penalties
The Act, as amended by Act No. 13 of 1994, identifies offences and makes provisions for penalties. Specifically, it states that any inhabitant of a village who: (a) when required, fails to furnish the particulars and other information or (b) on ceasing to be an inhabitant of a village, fails to inform forthwith the Headman of that village that he has so ceased to be an inhabitant of that village or (c) on becoming an inhabitant of another village, fails to inform forthwith the Headman of that village that he has become an inhabitant of that village; or (d) in giving any information for the purposes of this Act, knowingly or recklessly makes any statement which is false shall be guilty of an offence.
The concept of registration of villages and their inhabitants is clearly a very good one especially in the context of civil registration and vital statistics.
The provision of accurate and authoritative statistical information as contained in village registers strengthens our society.
Vital statistics are used for several purposes some of which are updating electoral rolls and demarcation of constituencies. The usefulness of vital statistics depends to a large extent on the completeness with which the vital events are registered.
Despite the importance of vital statistics, there is urgent need to improve their availability, timeliness and quality. Considerable capacity building by the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs in conjunction with the Central Statistical Office is needed to improve accuracy and completeness of records in the village registers.
A functional system for the collation and analysis of data at the village and chiefdom levels for rational decision-making needs to be developed especially in the context of decentralisation.