Source: Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
By Tania Broughton
Chantel* was only 15 years old when she hopped the Eswatini-South African border in early 2007. She says she lived her whole life in an orphanage in Manzini, never knew her biological parents and never saw her birth certificate.
Abuse was rife. “The conditions were unbearable. We were not properly cared for. We were frequently physically disciplined,” she says. “I lived in fear; I suffered significant emotional and psychological distress.”
Unable to tolerate the abuse, she started siphoning off some of the money she earned from selling detergents to fundraise for the orphanage. When she had enough, she took a bus to the border and a customs officer helped her cross over. She says she knew it was illegal.
Chantel was known by a different name at the orphanage but she changed it when she arrived “so that I could not be traced and sent back”.
In many ways her life improved in South Africa. She headed to Durban where she met a South African and the couple started life together in the Durban North suburb of Red Hill. They had two children, one born in 2007 and the other in 2014.
When it was time for her firstborn child to go to school, Chantel realised the pain of her own statelessness. Because Chantel’s partner is South African, both of her children are legitimately South African, but because Chantel had no documentation at all, her children were never issued with birth certificates. No school in South Africa will enrol a child without a birth certificate.