Relief for stateless South African man after 25 year-wait for a birth certificate

Published: 22/Feb/2024
Source: UNHCR

Years after Tebogo Khoza was refused an ID document, a high court judgement has restored his rights and offered hope to millions of other undocumented South Africans.

By Laura Padoan in Pretoria, South Africa

As a game keeper in South Africa’s Limpopo Province, Tebogo Khoza’s knowledge of the land and its wildlife is key to his livelihood and safety. Tending to the buffalo and impala on the reserve where he lives at the foot of the Ysterberg mountains, Khoza feels a sense of belonging that has been denied to him for most of his life.

Last year, at the age of 25, Khoza was finally issued with a birth certificate by South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs, marking the end of a 10-year battle to be recognized as a South African citizen.

Born at the edge of the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga Province, Khoza was around 6 years old when his HIV-positive mother travelled to Limpopo to seek treatment from a sangoma (a traditional healer). When she had not returned after some weeks, he went with his grandmother to the sangoma’s house, only to find that his mother had died. “I was waiting for my mother to come out of the house,” he recalls. “But she never came.”

Never having known his father and unwilling to return to Mpumalanga without his mother, Khoza was taken to a children’s home.

“I didn’t have a birth certificate and I didn’t know my birthday. When I was about 13 or 14 years old, we approached Home Affairs to obtain documentation, but that’s when I found out that my grandmother didn’t have an ID either,” he says.

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Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Birth Registration, ID Documents and Passports, Statelessness
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2024