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Children’s Institute puts plight of children in the spotlight at high court

Published Sep 21, 2023

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The child of a parent with a blocked ID is not only denied recognition and use of their South African citizenship, but faced many problems including being refused access to school, social grants and health-care services, among others.

This is according to the Children’s Institute at UCT, represented by the Centre for Child Law, who on Wednesday provided evidence as a friend of the court, in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, to highlight the consequences for children whose parents’ IDs have been “blocked” by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is representing over 100 people in the court challenge, which seeks to declare the DHA’s conduct as unlawful and unconstitutional, and seeks an order to unblock the IDs.

An ID is blocked when an ID number is flagged because it is tainted by an administrative error, or because of suspected fraud or misrepresentation, the court heard.

According to the LHR, in the past five years, they have assisted over 500 people with blocked IDs – with the majority being marginalised, black South Africans whom they say discovered the issue by surprise.

“The Children’s Institute’s affidavits include case studies of four mothers who are South African citizens whose IDs have been blocked, resulting in their children’s births going unregistered for years,” said Mbonisi Nyathi, a legal researcher at the institute.

“The children have suffered being excluded from social grants in early childhood – the period when they need it most; along with delays in being admitted to school, being refused place at school, and being excluded from school programmes.”

The LHR argues: “It is understood that the decision to block a person’s ID aims to protect the broader public from identity fraud, to curb illegal immigration, and to ensure the integrity and credibility of the National Population Register.

“However, stripping a person of their citizenship is disproportionate to any of these alleged benefits or goals sought to be achieved by the DHA, because of the DHA’s failure to follow a just and fair administrative process and resolve the alleged reason for the block being placed on the ID concerned.”

The DHA maintained the markers were placed as an administrative tool.

“Placing a ‘marker’ in relation to an identity number serves various purposes.

“For example, a marker in relation to a death status ensures that the ID number of the dead person cannot be used as such, as for example, collection of pension benefits which are otherwise payable to a person whilst still alive.

“From the provisions of section 19 of the Identification Act, it is apparent that the director-general has a wide discretion to recall, cancel and replace IDs of eligible persons with clerical errors in the prescribed manner; cancel the IDs of ineligible person.

“The issuing of IDs and the prevention of fraud is consequently a matter of national importance and of public interest,” they argued.

Judgment in the matter has been reserved.

Cape Times