Battle for birth certificates won
Published by Sunday Times April 3, 2016
A father’s desperate wish to have his daughters recognised as South African citizens was finally realised this week when they were both issued with birth certificates, but he was not around to witness it.
The Durban man, died last year just a month after he and his wife, with the help of the Legal Resources Centre, had brought an application in the Durban High Court to get their children’s births registered and for them to get unabridged birth certificates so they would be allowed to go to school.
The children, aged 9 and almost 3, were born in Durban to a South African father and a Swazi mother. However due to their mother not having an ID, Home Affairs refused to issue the children with birth certificates, which led to the older child being unable to attend school.
The matter of schooling was resolved last year but the mother only received birth certificates for both her daughters this week. This was confirmed yesterday by advocate Stuart Humphrey, who acted on behalf of the Legal Resources Centre for the couple, when the matter came before Judge Piet Koen in the Durban High Court.
Yesterday the girls’ mother, who cannot be named to protect her children’s identities, told The Mercury that her husband would have been thrilled by the news.
“He would have jumped over the moon,” she said.
She said she felt relieved and elated. “I’m so happy, you have no idea,”she said.
She was especially grateful to the Legal Resources Centre, who had taken on the case.
In their court application, the girls’ father had said in his founding affidavit that at age 8, his eldest daughter had no formal education because she had been turned away from schools since 2014 due to the fact that she had no birth certificate.
His children’s mother was a “stateless person and unidentifiable”, with no papers, he said.
After the birth of both of their children, they repeatedly attempted to register and get birth certificates for them, but were always turned away because of their mother’s lack of ID documents.
Recounting her eldest daughter’s first day of school last year, the mother said she was glad her husband had been alive for that.
“He was so excited that day,” she said, “He got up early and dressed her himself.”
She said her daughter was enjoying school and she planned to enrol her youngest child in playschool soon, now that she had her birth certificate.
But her battle is not over. Her own bid for documentation to legalise her being in the country – as contained in the original application – is continuing.
According to the court papers, the woman was born in Swaziland and immediately placed in an orphanage where she lived until she was 15. She never knew her biological parents. Owing to abuse at the orphanage, she fled to Durban in February 2007.
The couple had tried to obtain proof of identity for her from Swaziland.
They had contacted the orphanage, but were told it had no records for her and that, if they did, they would have been destroyed.
The matter remains before the court.
Bernadette Wolhuter, The Mercury, 17 Feb 2017