An unabridged bug­ger up

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - NEWS -

Iwrite this in a quaint lit­tle cof­fee shop in the town of Lepha­lale, in Lim­popo. My fam­ily and I are en route to Botswana, and the Cen­tral Kala­hari Game Re­serve. It’s the first time I’m tak­ing my kids to Botswana; for tra­di­tional mag­a­zine fea­tures, a twop­er­son crew (con­sist­ing of a jour­nal­ist and a pho­tog­ra­pher) nor­mally rushes in and rushes out. There’s just never enough time to stop and smell the roses.

Now that the kids are a bit big­ger, I thought I’d take my fam­ily along: in­stead of show­ing them pho­tos of a lion or an ele­phant and telling them about the trip, they’d be able to ex­pe­ri­ence all these things for them­selves. Camp­ing in the wild with kids, with no fenc­ing is still a lit­tle bit of an un­known quan­tity. We’ll have to see how that works out. You can read all about camp­ing with kids in the wild in the June is­sue.

But there’s al­ready a story be­hind this story. We’d se­cured pass­ports for the kids some years ago, so that bit of ad­min­is­tra­tion was at least cov­ered. But there was the unabridged birth cer­tifi­cate co­nun­drum.

In 2012, the South African Gov­ern­ment in­tro­duced new leg­is­la­tion that re­quired par­ents trav­el­ling across SA’s bor­ders to pos­sess a piece of pa­per called an unabridged birth cer­tifi­cate. A nor­mal (abridged) birth cer­tifi­cate states that child X was born, and that child X was born on so-and-so date. An ID num­ber is also al­lo­cated to them.

An unabridged birth cer­tifi­cate adds the par­ents’ names and par­tic­u­lars to the deal. So, when the child crosses a bor­der with the par­ents, of­fi­cials can dou­ble check that the mi­nor is in­deed in the care of his or her right­ful par­ents. In the­ory, this makes a lot of sense: if a child is ab­ducted, tak­ing them across the bor­der with­out this piece of pa­per is a bit of a night­mare.

In prac­tice, the leg­is­la­tion caused ma­jor is­sues for tourists and trav­ellers. I was once wait­ing in the check-in line at an in­ter­na­tional air­port in Europe, on my way back to SA. A young Euro­pean cou­ple, also on their way to SA, had been stopped in their tracks as they did not have an unabridged cer­tifi­cate for their child.

I even­tu­ally checked in and left them there, be­ing sent from pil­lar to post be­tween of­fi­cials to try and re­solve the is­sue. I re­mem­ber feel­ing a bit em­bar­rassed by the sit­u­a­tion. All they wanted to do was travel and ex­pe­ri­ence our won­der­ful coun­try, and a piece of pa­per was pre­vent­ing them from do­ing so.

In re­cent times, the unabridged cer­tifi­cate busi­ness came un­der in­creas­ing fire, and quite a few news re­ports stated that the gov­ern­ment had re­alised the harm this red tape hic­cup was caus­ing the tourism in­dus­try, and planned to drop it.

So, maybe naively, we never sourced an unabridged cer­tifi­cate for our daugh­ter. The younger lad had re­ceived his unabridged cer­tifi­cate af­ter his birth, so he was sorted.

About a week be­fore we were due to de­part, my much smarter bet­ter half asked whether our daugh­ter needed one. Nope, I said. That leg­is­la­ture was scrapped long ago. I had read about it in the daily press. Some­where.

But driv­ing all the way to the Botswana bor­der only to be turned around at the big gates to wildlife heaven was not a cool thought. So I asked around. And to cut a long story short, we needed an unabridged cer­tifi­cate. Our daugh­ter would not be al­lowed out of the coun­try with­out one. And that came straight out of the mouth of the head of im­mi­gra­tion at the bor­der post we planned to use.

Oh crikey! With de­posits paid, car­a­van or­gan­ised and a rather ex­cited brood, this was a bit of an is­sue. So off to the lo­cal home af­fairs of­fice I went, bright and early. But I chose the one morn­ing the of­fi­cial­dom had a big in­ter­nal meet­ing be­fore open­ing the doors, so more than an hour later and with no sign of the meet­ing end­ing, we jumped that ship, aim­ing for the next day.

The next day we, with some more pil­lar and post­ing, man­aged to ap­ply for an unabridged cer­tifi­cate... so prob­lem solved. Er, no. Our im­mi­gra­tion con­tact said it was still a no go. We needed an of­fi­cial let­ter from that Home Af­fairs of­fice that we have ap­plied for said cer­tifi­cate, and that we are in­deed the par­ents of our daugh­ter.

Blimey! So for the third day run­ning we re­ported to the place of red tape. I must say, the Rood­e­poort Home Af­fairs of­fice re­ally rose to the oc­ca­sion, and just over an hour later we walked out with the magic piece of pa­per that would al­low us to take our daugh­ter to Botswana.

In the next two hours we will be cross­ing the bor­der into Botswana. And we should be fine. I think. We’ll let you know how it went next month.

PS: If you are plan­ning to leave SA with your kids, some news: when you ap­ply for a new pass­port, you can re­quest that the unabridged cer­tifi­cate is in­cluded in the pass­port. This makes much more sense, we reckon.

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