South Africa: Picket for Children's Rights Outside Home Affairs Office

(file photo).
10 December 2019

About 40 people from several civil society organisations picketed outside the Department of Home Affairs in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning to protest against the denial of rights to undocumented children.

The picket was held for International Human Rights Day on 10 December and International Migrants Day on 18 December. Right2Know, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa and Thembelihle Crisis Committee were among the organisations present.

Picketers held placards that read: "A name and nationality is my right", "I was born here but can't go to school here". Documents made by children were strung outside the Department during the picket.

In a memorandum handed over to the Department, the protesters said the Constitution gives every child a right to a name, nationality and immediate birth registration, regardless of nationality. "Despite this, hundreds of children are still being denied this right."

They said children without documents were not recognised by the state and were excluded from health, education and child protection services.

They demanded that the birth of all children be registered, regardless of nationality and parents' status, and that all children be given a birth certificate.

They called on the Department to either get rid of the DNA test requirement for children born outside marriage, or at least negotiate with the Department of Health to provide a subsidised DNA testing service.

Alfred Mahlole, 26, from Thembelihle Crisis Committee, told GroundUp that not having a birth certificate or ID had prevented him going to university or finding a job. He was born in South Africa but he does not know his biological parents. He was raised by a guardian.

He said he first realised that he did not have any documentation in 2010 when he was selected to represent his school in a provincial soccer tournament but was not allowed to go without documentation. The only document he had was a clinic card.

"It's been nine years now and I still don't have anything. I've been going to Home Affairs up and down, I even went to the family court and legal aid," he said.

Mahlole said his school had made an exception for him and he was able to write his matric exams but when he started applying for jobs, he struggled without documentation.

Lungile Mkhulise from the Home Affairs District Office signed and received the memorandum and said she would send it to the national department by the end of the day.

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has said that all children must go to school whether or not they have documents. Speaking to GroundUp on 22 October after briefing a meeting of Parliament's portfolio committees on Home Affairs and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Motsoaledi said: "Send them to school ... We'll look at the documentation later."

In an ongoing court case at Grahamstown High Court the Centre for Child Law - joined by South African Human Rights Commission as friends of the court - is arguing that children without birth certificates or undocumented migrant children should not be denied their right to education. This application was made after 37 learners from Phakamisa High School near King Williamstown were excluded because they do not have the necessary documents.

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