Born in SA to ‘foreign’ parents, I am a second-class citizen

Published: 3/Mar/2020
Source: Daily Maverick (South Africa)

By Christy Chitengu

There appears to be a general consensus within the South African government that children born in the country from non-South African parents are not ‘really’ South African. Having been in this predicament myself, I beg to differ as I am more South African than Zimbabwean. This blatant disregard by the Department of Home Affairs in particular inspires in me a sense of anger and loss. I seem to belong neither here nor there.

The first time I realised that I did not belong to this country I so strongly considered mine was when I was in Grade 11, where my right to accessing basic education was threatened. I vividly remember being called over the intercom while in class to report immediately to the principal’s office. As I walked down the corridor, anxiously straightened my uniform and quickly rummaged through the catalogue that is my mind in search of what I could have possibly done wrong. Little did I know that my mere presence in school and in the country was the only thing that I did wrong. I was an alien in my country of birth.

Upon arrival, my principal plainly stated to me and the 10 or so undocumented Grade 11 pupils in her office, “I have no idea how you got into school because I have no documentation for you. You all need to get your papers together because the department (Department of Education) will not allow you to continue attending school.”

Following this, my mother and I went to the Department of Home Affairs, where I was told by a supervisor that the abridged South African birth certificate I received as an infant was merely to register my birth and not “to go to school here or whatever you people are doing”.

This single encounter with a supervisor at the Department of Home Affairs echoes the legislative narrative that restricts the access to education for many undocumented minors.

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Themes: Acquisition by children
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2020