13 May 2017

Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize braved the chilling weather on Saturday morning to join the community of Etwatwa, in Benoni, for an Imbizo, public meeting, at WJ Mpengesi Primary School, to address people’s concerns regarding enabling documents, like birth certificates and IDs, and access to education and social security.

MMC Masele Maditlhaba was among the leaders present. Head of Inspectorate Modiri Matthews and Deputy-Director General for Civic Affairs were among senior managers accompanying the Minister.

Also at the public meeting were parents from local schools, with around 34 schools represented. The voice of the schools was strengthened by School Governing Bodies (SGBs).

Addressing the parents, stakeholders and community representatives, Minister Mkhize expressed gratitude to Ekurhuleni Executive Mayor Mzwandile Masina for supporting this intervention, ensuring needs of residents receive undivided attention of government.

“This gathering is significant because it’s about identity, which is central to restoring dignity of people, regardless of gender, race or class. Solving identity dynamics serves to open resources, social services and doors of learning for those previously marginalised,” the Minister said. Registering children gives them an identity from birth. It opens avenues to a whole range of critical services while dignifying lives of children.

It is therefore important for no child to be left out. All must be registered early, at birth, within 30 days, as required by the law, the Minister explained.

The Minister also spoke about dynamics of international migration, emphasising the need for social integration and coexistence among SA citizens and foreign nationals in communities stressing the need as Africans to work and prosper in harmony.

Home Affairs had earlier received queries regarding children barred from schools and struggling to benefit from social security programmes due to lack of required and enabling ID documents. Educators had raised challenges about likely exclusion of children from schools, mainly due to illegal migration of Mozambican, Swazi and Lesotho nationals in the area.

Around 600 stakeholders, including members of SGBs, representatives and leaders of community-based organisations and community members participated in the Etwatwa Imbizo. Pertinent issues raised during the engagement were:

  • DHA Springs is too far, therefore requesting a DHA office in Etwatwa.
  • There is a need to document and regularise stay of foreign nationals in the area, particularly those who arrived decades ago from neighbouring countries and cannot get documents.
  • Children should be registered at birth, before leaving hospitals.
  • Some children had no birth certificates, and may be excluded from social grants.
  • Schools need intervention as they are battling to register children with no papers.
  • Some adults are without IDs, therefore with less access to grants.
  • People do not register because they do not have documents to prove citizenship.
  • Certain DHA offices are not helpful.
  • Foreign nationals cannot attend school, as they have no requisite documents.
  • Some children of non-SA citizens know no other home, but South Africa.
  • Some SA children are in distress because parents died before registering them, abandoned them or are untraceable, and thus children cannot get birth certificates or IDs.
  • There is a problem of identity duplicates, noted also by school principals.

This imbizo – unmediated public meeting – created a platform for the Minister and community leaders to listen to community concerns with a view to finding solutions. Foreign nationals, mostly from Mozambique, with some from Lesotho and Swaziland, also aired their problems, including documentation challenges in partnerships and marriages of citizens and non-citizens. Over 100 residents of Etwatwa reported their problems to departmental officials in the school hall, for follow-up beyond Imbizo.

The Minister and departmental managers explained Home Affairs processes for various services and promised to step-up public education and raising awareness around services offered as well as procedures and requirements for applying for services. People’s concerns will carefully be looked into. Citizens were encouraged to visit DHA offices to resolve their problems. Requirements for acquisition of SA citizenship were clarified.

The Head of Inspectorate, Modiri Matthews explained that South Africa’s Immigration Act, 2002 requires everybody to be here legally, with proper documents, precisely because it is important for everyone’s safety, even safety for those with no proper documents. Those who do not qualify may submit a ‘good cause’ application, for stay under exceptional circumstances. People from Lesotho were reminded that they were asked to apply for Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) but they chose not to. People were strongly advised to follow the law, avoiding, among other offences, helping people to acquire documents fraudulently.

In closing the public meeting, the Minister called for all stakeholders to work together to address, as a special project, problems affecting Etwatwa communities. Embassies whose nationals are affected will also be engaged in resolving challenges affecting their nationals. Other problems cut across government departments, like those of learners who require ID numbers, social grants and health services. The Minister called for compassion and caring communities, especially where children are concerned, and urged citizens to apply for Smart ID Cards, also online, through eHomeAffairs. Delivering home affairs services is a societal responsibility.

For more information, please contact:

Thabo Mokgola at 060 962 4982

Mpume Madlala (MLO for the Minister): 081 282 7799

David Hlabane at 071 342 4284