National ID cards: How Tanzania was the odd one out

04Mar 2016
The Guardian
National ID cards: How Tanzania was the odd one out

THE national identity cards of most countries in Africa and elsewhere have the hand-written signatures of the holders on prominent display, a fact which contradicts arguments put forward by senior Tanzanian government officials that signatures are not an important feature of the cards.

Former NIDA General Director, Dickson Maimu

A survey by The Guardian has shown that the national ID cards of neighbouring Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda all have visible signatures of both the card holder and card issuer printed on them.

The same goes for other prominent African countries such as South Africa and Nigeria.

Tanzania therefore stands as the odd one out as the signatures are conspicuously missing from its national ID cards, a flaw which authorities have finally acknowledged and promised to rectify by issuing brand-new cards which will now have the signatures on display.

Although President John Magufuli himself publicly criticised the cards over the missing signatures last month, Home Affairs Minister Charles Kitwanga and the top management of the state-run National Identification Authority (NIDA) – which issued the cards - defended them by saying they were based on modern, sophisticated, biometric authentification technology.

But NIDA this week made a spectacular U-turn on the issue when it finally admitted the obvious flaw. The authority has now announced plans to recall over 2 million cards already handed out to citizens to pave the way for a fresh process to start preparing and printing new cards with visible signatures.

Still, it remains a mystery why the national ID cards were printed without signatures in the first place, and why top government officials initially sought to defend the cards so profusely before NIDA finally owned up to the mistake.

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