South Africa: Battle for birth certificates won

Published: 17/Feb/2017
Source: The Mercury (South Africa)

By Bernadette Wol­huter

A FATHER’S des­per­ate wish to have his daugh­ters recog­nised as South African cit­i­zens was finally realised this week when they were both issued with birth cer­tifi­cates, but he was not around to wit­ness it.

The Dur­ban man, died last year just a month after he and his wife, with the help of the Legal Resources Cen­tre, had brought an appli­ca­tion in the Dur­ban High Court to get their children’s births reg­is­tered and for them to get unabridged birth cer­tifi­cates so they would be allowed to go to school.

The chil­dren, aged 9 and almost 3, were born in Dur­ban to a South African father and a Swazi mother. How­ever due to their mother not hav­ing an ID, Home Affairs refused to issue the chil­dren with birth cer­tifi­cates, which led to the older child being unable to attend school.

The mat­ter of school­ing was resolved last year but the mother only received birth cer­tifi­cates for both her daugh­ters this week. This was con­firmed yes­ter­day by advo­cate Stu­art Humphrey, who acted on behalf of the Legal Resources Cen­tre for the cou­ple, when the mat­ter came before Judge Piet Koen in the Dur­ban High Court.

Yes­ter­day the girls’ mother, who can­not be named to pro­tect her children’s iden­ti­ties, told The Mer­cury that her hus­band would have been thrilled by the news.

“He would have jumped over the moon,” she said.

She said she felt relieved and elated. “I’m so happy, you have no idea,”she said.

She was espe­cially grate­ful to the Legal Resources Cen­tre, who had taken on the case.

In their court appli­ca­tion, the girls’ father had said in his found­ing affi­davit that at age 8, his eldest daugh­ter had no for­mal edu­ca­tion because she had been turned away from schools since 2014 due to the fact that she had no birth cer­tifi­cate.

His children’s mother was a “state­less per­son and uniden­ti­fi­able”, with no papers, he said.

After the birth of both of their chil­dren, they repeat­edly attempted to reg­is­ter and get birth cer­tifi­cates for them, but were always turned away because of their mother’s lack of ID doc­u­ments.

Recount­ing her eldest daughter’s first day of school last year, the mother said she was glad her hus­band had been alive for that.

“He was so excited that day,” she said, “He got up early and dressed her him­self.”

She said her daugh­ter was enjoy­ing school and she planned to enrol her youngest child in playschool soon, now that she had her birth cer­tifi­cate.

But her bat­tle is not over. Her own bid for doc­u­men­ta­tion to legalise her being in the coun­try – as con­tained in the orig­i­nal appli­ca­tion – is con­tin­u­ing.

Accord­ing to the court papers, the woman was born in Swazi­land and imme­di­ately placed in an orphan­age where she lived until she was 15. She never knew her bio­log­i­cal par­ents. Owing to abuse at the orphan­age, she fled to Dur­ban in Feb­ru­ary 2007.

The cou­ple had tried to obtain proof of iden­tity for her from Swazi­land.

They had con­tacted the orphan­age, but were told it had no records for her and that, if they did, they would have been destroyed.

The mat­ter remains before the court.

Read on LRC website.

Themes: Acquisition by children, Birth Registration
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2017