Victims of blocked identity documents (ID’s) have taken the Department of Home Affairs to task, saying it has turned their lives upside down and violated their human rights.
They include young graduates and ordinary people who accuse the department of illegally stripping them of their citizenship.
In December 2020, the department reported over 800,000 blocked ID books.
As a result, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) have taken Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to the Pretoria High Court, where they seek justice for more than 100 victims of ID blocking.
According to LHR representative, Thandeka Chauke, blocking people’s ID books violates human rights.
“Over 80% of cases are for South African citizens. We receive these kinds of queries every week. The case against the minister is not about state security or ‘illegal migration,’ but about 134 and more people’s lives that have been ruined because the department has failed to abide by the rule of law.
“The department’s conduct reflects a contempt for people and processes prescribed by the Constitution and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. In all the cases we have resolved, it turned out that the affected people were indeed South African citizens who had been wrongfully stripped of their citizenship and dignity for years,” said Chauke.
One of the victims, Africa Sibuyi, 28, from Rolle in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, said his life was on hold as he struggled to open a bank account.
“In February this year, I interacted with the Bushbuckridge Home Affairs manager, who also promised to assist, but she has not yet given me feedback. When I discovered this problem, I was told that the matter would be resolved within a month, but now it’s about four years,” said the father of one.
Sibuyi, who has approached the department’s head office in Pretoria to no avail, said he was lucky that when his ID number was blocked, he had already obtained a driver’s license.
“My documentation allows me to renew it, but the problem is the bank account. Now I am working as a driver for a small company, but I can’t get paid into my own bank account. I also don’t know how this problem will affect me in the future,” he said.
Another victim, Unathi Mphikiswa, 24, from Mvezo in Umtata, Eastern Cape, said she is facing a bleak future despite graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree from Nelson Mandela University.
Mphikiswa’s trouble started in 2010 when some people claiming to be officials from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) came to her home and demanded to see her birth certificate.
They were investigating identity fraud, which was rife at the time.
“They wrote down my ID number and left. As the years went by, I did not suspect anything but later found out that my ID number was blocked in 2017 when I was trying to apply for some documentation at the local home affairs offices.
“Fortunately, I managed to further my studies using my birth certificate. But the problem is that now I cannot even get in-service training. My situation is painful because I am a mother but am also staying with a mother who does not even have a permanent job,” she said.
Mphikiswa said home affairs officials demanded proof that she is a South African. The evidence that they needed included a letter from the tribal authority, an affidavit, and a letter from the primary school she attended, as well as confirmation from the clinic.
“I provided all the necessary evidence besides the letter from the clinic, as I was born in a traditional way where my mother was assisted by the elders at home. I received an SMS confirming that my case was being attended to,” she said.
“Last year, I received a phone call from Home Affairs asking that I submit the documentation again, which I did, but I am still waiting for the response. My child is three years old, and she does not even have a certificate.”
Home Affairs spokesperson Siyabulela Qoza did not respond to media questions.