Officially declared dead by the Department of Home Affairs in 2012, Mbalenhle Mpanza can’t find work, exercise her right to vote, or access her parenting support grant from social welfare.
DURBAN - Home Affairs documentation has it that Mbalenhle Precious Mpanza died seven years ago of natural causes but the 30-year-old mother is very much alive, albeit battling to survive without an official identity.

Mpanza said she was shocked in 2014 when Independent Electoral Commission officials who had scanned her ID at her voting station told her she had been declared dead by Home Affairs.

“I burst into tears,” the unemployed mother said.

“I had no idea how this had happened and why. They told me I could not vote, and I have not been able to do so since,” Mpanza said in an interview with the Sunday Tribune in uMlazi this week.

“It feels like my rights have been taken away from me.”

Mpanza said when she first went to the Home Affairs offices in Prospecton three years ago, an official told her that she had “died in uMzimkhulu” and been declared dead in September 2012.

“I have never been to Mzimkhulu and don’t know anyone there,” she said.

She later got a call from an official saying she should expect an SMS followed by a letter from Pretoria, declaring that she was back on their system as a living person.

Three years on, no such documentation has arrived.

“Life has been a roller-coaster. I have lost count of the number of trips I have made to different branches of home affairs every year,” she said.

As an unemployed mother, Mpanza is dependent on a social welfare grant to care for her nine-year-old daughter, Gcino. But her social welfare grant has not been paid since 2014.

The South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) has advised her to first sort out the death certificate issue with with the Department of Home Affairs.

As far as SASSA is concerned she is still dead.

Mpanza showed the Tribune her now dysfunctional identity document. She has been told she can only get a new ID book once the death certificate is officially out of the system.

“Without a valid ID I cannot even look for work or study nursing to build a future for myself,” said Mpanza.

“I rely on my mother and younger sister for my daughter’s support. My life has stalled.”

She is also concerned that should she meet an unfortunate accident and actually die, her family would have difficulties claiming funeral benefits because she would have already been declared dead.

“Ngife ngiphila!” (I am alive but dead), she said.

KwaZulu-Natal Sassa spokesman, Vusi Mahaye said Mpanza should bring a valid document from Home Affairs clearing her from the dead so that a new application for her daughter’s support grant could be processed.

“It will be a new application but she won’t be back-paid because the cancellation was over a three-month period,” he said.

Mahaye said while Mpanza dealt with Home Affairs she could get a relative living with her to register her daughter at Sassa but she must produce an affidavit as proof.

The Department of Home Affairs had not responded to Sunday Tribune queries on Mpanza’s case at the time of going to print.