The registration of births in Zimbabwe is governed by the Births and Deaths Registration Act (Chapter 5:27). Registration is done through the giving of notice in the prescribed form primarily by the father or mother of the child. The prescribed form is the BD 1 Form and the information to be filled in this form include the child’s name, place of birth, date of birth, marriage status of the parents and the parents’ details. For children born outside the country the form is the BD 3 Form.

In the case of a child born out of wedlock (born to unmarried persons) no person is compelled by law to acknowledge being the father of the child. Thus, the mother of a child born out of wedlock can give the notice herself in which case the section written ‘FATHER OF CHILD’ on the birth certificate will be empty. The father of the child can however acknowledge paternity and the registrar can enter the name of the father upon the joint request of the mother and the father.

Once completed and accepted by the registrar, the BD 1 Form becomes the primary source document for the issuance of a birth certificate and the information on the birth certificate cannot be easily altered unless it is a minor clerical error. This why, in terms of section 27 of the Act, any person who willfully provides false information on the BD 1 Form can be found guilty of an offence and punished to a maximum of one year imprisonment.

There are cases where a child is born outside marriage and the father acknowledges paternity but the mother then decides later to have nothing to do with the father and applies to have the birth certificate altered by removing the father’s name. This may be because the mother is frustrated that the father is not being responsible or because the ‘father’ is not the real father of the child. In recent cases, women have also sought to have the father’s name ‘removed’ from the birth certificate to make it easy for them to emigrate with the child.

Unfortunately, and as already stated above, once the father acknowledges paternity his name cannot just be removed from the child’s birth certificate. The alteration to remove the father’s name from the birth certificate can only occur on the basis of a court order or if the mother (or both the mother and the father) are convicted of willfully providing false information during registration of birth.

Paternity is a presumption and where the mother is not sure at birth nothing stops her from registering the child as having a single parent with the ‘FATHER OF CHILD’ section remaining empty. Thus, in Minezhi v Boora (HH 201 of 2020) the court had this to say;

Whilst I am cognisant of the fact that in Katedza v Chunga and anor 2003(1) 470 the mother of the minor child was allowed to change his surname from that of his father into hers, in my view such an action is never in the best interests of the child. It ends up confusing the child. Today he is known by one surname and the next day by another surname. In my considered view, for a child born out of wedlock, there is nothing that bars the mother from using her own surname for the child from the start- see s 12 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act [Chapter 5:02]. 

It is therefore critical that the correct information be provided during registration of birth. Where the father is irresponsible and is not in the life of the child, the remedy is not to apply for a change of name of the child but to seek sole guardianship or sole custody.

The contents of this article are for general information purposes only and do not constitute our legal or professional advice. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage of whatsoever nature which may arise from reliance on any of the information published herein.

Copyright © Marume & Furidzo Legal Practitioners 2024


  1. Auxcillia Marodza

    Goodday I want to change my Son second name

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