The High Court in Pretoria has ended a mother’s 12-year-long battle by ordering the department of home affairs to register her son’s birth and declaring the boy a South African citizen.
The department unlawfully refused to register Wandile’s (not his real name) birth, despite the fact that he was born in SA and had a clear right to be recognized as a citizen, leaving him effectively stateless.
Two unknown children had been registered under his mother’s name at home affairs. One child was born a month after Wandile and home affairs refused to register two children born within a month of each other.
Despite the mother’s official complaint to remove the other children from her name, home affairs had failed to investigate or to rectify the matter since 2007 and Wandile remained unregistered, despite being a South African citizen by law.
After his school refused to allow him to continue attending without a birth certificate, his mother was forced to send him to live with his grandmother in KwaZulu-Natal, where a school was wiling to accept him.
The Statelessness Project of Lawyers for Human rights (LHR) eventually intervened and helped the mother to bring an application to force home affairs to recognise her son’s right to citizenship and birth registration.
LHR’s Liesl Muller said Wandile could now finally return to Gauteng to live with his mother.
She said LHR was concerned that home affairs’ lack of effective service delivery and lack of response to queries was rendering children unnecessarily stateless.
“These cases illustrate the urgent need for an independent complaints body [an ombudsman] for the department of home affairs.
“According to the constitution, every child has the right to a name and a nationality and the right not to be deprived of citizenship.
“Home affairs has a long way to go in realising these rights,” Muller said.