Jacqueline Marriah with her son, Jared Thomas Kondia, and daughter, Ysabella.
Durban - A New Zealand mother’s plans to spend Christmas with her Durban family is in disarray because the Department of Home Affairs has been unable to trace her son’s unabridged birth certificate.

Expat Jacqueline Marriah, 35, a business analyst, said she had applied for the certificate for her then 10-year-old son, Jared Thomas “JT” Kondia at the Department of Home Affairs in Randburg in February 2014, three months before leaving South Africa to settle overseas.

The law requiring for unabridged birth certificates to be shown for children under 18, before they can be granted entry into South Africa, came into effect in November 2014.

JT, whose father died when he was a year old, travelled abroad with a valid abridged birth certificate and passport.

Since relocating, Marriah has provided proof of her application and marriage to her now deceased husband, only to be told there was no record of her son.

“I then decided to seek help at the South African Consulate in New Zealand and after resubmitting the same paperwork and others, including details of my parents’ births and marriage, they have still been unable to produce the certificate,” said Marriah.

She has since applied to become a resident of New Zealand and also requires the unabridged certificate for that process.

“Immigration New Zealand advised that they would liaise with South African Home Affairs to resolve the matter as it made no sense to fail in acquiring the document when an abridged certificate and passport had been issued,” she told POST. 

“Needless to say, Immigration New Zealand gave up after two months and I had to undergo a DNA test to prove JT was my son.”

Marriah is planning to visit Durban for Christmas but has yet been unable to book airline tickets for fear the birth certificate issue would not be resolved in time.

She said each airline ticket costs up to R23000 but the price would increase during the festive season, making it almost impossible for the mother of two to afford the trip.

“I have been unable to book anything without the birth certificate and I also cannot afford to lose money on tickets.”

Marriah said she had missed many family occasions, including her sister’s wedding and the birth of her nephew.

“I also have an 83-year-old grandmother whom I am unable to see since she became ill. The department has made it such that I have not been able to spend any time with her, while she is still with us, because I cannot enter the country with my children. Heaven forbid anything should happen.”

In addition, JT is the only grandchild to his deceased father’s mother, whom he has been unable to visit.

“She is in her 70s and had to fly to New Zealand just to see him.”

Marriah sought the help of a Durban law firm and granted them power to apply for a new birth certificate. 

Her attorney, Mohamed Waseem Joosub, contacted the Randburg branch of Home Affairs, which confirmed receipt of the application, saying it had been processed.

Joosub said Home Affairs claimed they were previously advised to redirect the unabridged birth certificate from the Randburg offices to Wellington Embassy in New Zealand.

“The agent advised that certificates are untraceable. If it was sent to New Zealand and got lost in transmission, it would take them months to investigate where exactly the document is,” said Joosub.

“I then queried as to whether it would be sufficient to simply apply for a new unabridged certificate here in Durban and upon issue of same, we could courier it through to New Zealand. She (the agent) confirmed this would suffice.”

Marriah remains sceptical, however, as the consulate in New Zealand has only received written confirmation from the department, saying they had no records. 

It seemed unlikely, she added, that this particular document could go missing in transit. 

She is hoping, however, that she will get to spend Christmas in SA, which she still regards as home.

Department spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said in an e-mail that Marriah could obtain a letter, in lieu of an unabridged birth certificate, to allow her and her children to travel to South Africa.

“This they can do through their legal representative. The matter has been escalated to the provincial manager for Gauteng who will delegate officials to prioritise the matter.”