Heartache for unregistered
● Parents file class action against home affairs for birth certificates
Haunted by the knowledge that their children’s futures are slipping away by the day as home affairs officials refuse to issue them with birth certificates, a group of South African parents have filed a class action against the department.
The main aim of the legal action is to stop officials from demanding DNA tests, which cost thousands of rands, before children are issued with a birth certificate.
The affected parents all live in the Aliwal North and Sterkspruit areas.
The lead counsel in the matter, Lilla Crouse SC, said what she had seen while preparing for the case broke her heart.
“It was the poverty and hopelessness of the parents and them knowing that this will continue, without an education for the children,” she said.
According to papers filed at the Grahamstown High Court, the parents want the department to stop demanding DNA tests as a requisite for some birth certificates unless the government carries the cost.
They also want officials to be compelled to accept an affidavit as proof of parentage and to stop refusing birth registrations in cases where one parent is an illegal immigrant or undocumented.
Children without birth certificates are turned away by schools as no provision is made for them.
The first applicant in the matter, SA citizen Andile Nyangintsimbe, 32, said the mother of his three children was from Lesotho but was legally in SA.
Their two eldest children, born in 2004 and 2005, were registered by the department, but officials refused to register the third and youngest child.
Nyangintsimbe, who runs a spaza shop, said he had to enrol his son, born in 2011, in a private school as the state schools had turned him away.
“We were told by officials at the Sterkspruit home affairs office that we must go to East London and get a DNA test to prove he is my son,” he said.
“I am 100% convinced I am his biological father.”
Maserame Makoloane, 38, has four children between the ages of seven and 16, none of whom is registered as their father has disappeared.
The department wants her to find him before issuing the children with birth certificates.
“None of them has received formal schooling,” she said.
“I was first told to bring an affidavit explaining the situation, but another official at home affairs wasn’t satisfied.
“Each time I go, there is a different official who has different requirements.”
Makoloane said home affairs now wanted her to find the children’s missing father to get his DNA. “We can’t access grants either. Life is hard.”
A 17-year-old girl in Aliwal North said her mother died in 2010 and she had then gone to live with her grandmother.
“My father does not want me to know what his surname is because he is afraid I will sue him for maintenance,” she said.
“My grandmother was under the influence of alcohol most of the time so she gave the wrong date of birth when my birth certificate had to be reissued.
“At home affairs, they said it was her fault and she had to pay to have it corrected.
“But she only had R20 of my grant money and nothing else.
“The department then wanted a copy of my mother’s ID book. She never had one.
“Then they wanted a death certificate. We did not have one either.”
She said her own daughter had been born in 2017 but remained undocumented as the department now wanted a copy of her ID document – which it is refusing to issue.
Anthony Kambula , 58, said two of his children were documented, but home affairs refused to register the third without a DNA test.
He said they had paid R2,100 for a DNA test in November but were shocked to hear they would likely only have the results in March, which meant their son would miss the first term of school.
Zwelethu Phongomile, 36, has not been able to register any of his children because their mother is undocumented.
“There is no future for them if they are not educated.”
In 2017, the Grahamstown High Court ordered a blanket ban on birth registrations by parents who did not meet the department’s requirements and sent the regulations back to parliament to be fixed.
Home affairs spokesperson David Hlabane did not respond to a request for comment, but lawyers for the department filed papers indicating they would oppose the action.