Press Release: High Court orders Home Affairs to register birth of child born to foreign mother
Published by Legal Resources Centre 5 April 2017
For Immediate Release: 05 April 2017
On 4 April 2017, the Grahamstown High Court ordered the Department of Home Affairs to register the birth of Mr Lawrence Naki’s daughter. This was after the Legal Resources Centre challenged the Department of Home Affairs’ failure to register the child’s birth because the child’s mother did not have a valid visa and therefore was considered an “illegal foreigner”.
The Department had refused to register the birth, citing the Birth and Death Registration Act Regulations which, they argued, prohibited the single father from registering the birth of his daughter.
Mr Lawrence Naki, a South African citizen, works for the South African National Defence Force and met his wife when he was sent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on a peace keeping mission. They have two children together – the oldest is currently living in the DRC. Mr Naki could not register the birth of his South African-born child, even though their child is a South African citizen in terms of the Citizenship Act.
The LRC argued that the Department of Home Affairs’ interpretation of the Regulations is incorrect and that, properly interpreted, Mr Naki alone should be able to register his daughter’s birth, notwithstanding the fact that the mother is an illegal foreigner. The LRC further argued that if the Department’s interpretation of the Regulations is correct, then the impugned Regulations are unconstitutional.
The court declared the Department’s refusal to register the birth unlawful and invalid. The court ordered the Director General of Home Affairs to take all necessary steps to ensure that the birth is registered and a birth certificate is accordingly issued.
However, the court refused to pronounce on whether the Department’s interpretation of the Regulations was incorrect. Concomitantly, the court refused to make a finding on the constitutionality of the Regulations.
The court stated that it would prefer to hear the views of an amicus curiae on these issues and has accordingly requested the Grahamstown Bar to appoint an amicus curiae. The LRC welcomes the court’s request and hopes that this case will lead to clarity on the issue of registering births of children born in South Africa to a South African parent and a non-South African parent without the need for costly and time consuming litigation.