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700,000 IDs Are Still Blocked by Home Affairs in South Africa: Are You One of Them? Check Here

Source: Savemytaxes, 05/07/2024




700,000 IDs Are Still Blocked by Home Affairs in South Africa: Are You One of Them? Check Here: In a landmark ruling that could potentially alter the lives of hundreds of thousands, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria has declared the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) practice of blocking South African IDs as unconstitutional.
700,000 IDs Are Still Blocked by Home Affair
This judgment comes as a significant relief to many who have found themselves in a state of bureaucratic limbo, unable to access essential services due to the arbitrary blocking of their identification documents.
The legal battle, spearheaded by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), Legal Wise South Africa, and the Children’s Institute, highlights the severe implications of the DHA’s actions. The department, in its attempt to maintain the integrity of the National Population Register, blocked IDs it suspected to be fraudulent without prior notice or fair administrative processes. This practice left many individuals effectively stateless, unable to engage in fundamental aspects of daily life.
The Unconstitutional Practice of Blocking IDs
The issue dates back to May 2012, when the DHA initiated a campaign to address duplicate IDs in the National Population Register. What began with 29,000 identity documents quickly escalated, and by 2020, over one million IDs had markers placed against them, leading to their blocking. While the department has since unblocked 1.8 million IDs, more than 700,000 remain blocked, leaving those affected in a precarious situation.
The Gauteng High Court’s judgment, delivered by Judge Elmarie van der Schyff, declared that the DHA’s practice was an unjust and irregular administrative action inconsistent with the South African Constitution. The court emphasized that a mere suspicion of fraud did not justify the blocking of IDs without following just administrative procedures.
The Human Cost
The consequences of this practice have been far-reaching. Affected individuals, unable to obtain passports, travel, access education, healthcare, or even open bank accounts, have been rendered invisible in the eyes of the state. This “ghosting” effect not only disrupts the lives of adults but also severely impacts children whose parents’ IDs have been blocked.
Phindile Mazibuko, an Eswatini citizen who has lived in South Africa since 1998, brought the initial application forward. Her ID was blocked, and she faced the threat of losing her permanent residency. This case, joined by LHR and Legal Wise South Africa, was a matter of public interest, seeking to unblock the IDs and restore the affected individuals’ rights.
LHR, in their founding affidavit, argued that the blocking of IDs was unconstitutional as it left people in a state of statelessness. “They become ghosts in the system ` they cannot obtain passports and travel, they cannot access education and healthcare, they cannot open or access bank accounts,” the organization stated.
The Court’s Decision
In her ruling, Judge Van der Schyff pointed out that while the Director-General has a responsibility to protect the integrity of the national population register, doing so without following just administrative procedures constitutes mischief. She stated that suspicion alone was insufficient to justify the blocking of IDs unless authorized through a court order, thus asserting that the DHA had overstepped its bounds.
The DHA, in its answering affidavit, admitted that the IDs were blocked without a fair and just administrative process, acknowledging that this was inconsistent with the Constitution. The department claimed to have since developed a procedurally fair and transparent system, although it still involves placing markers or blocking IDs.
Moving Forward
The court has ordered the DHA to assess whether unblocking the currently blocked IDs would pose a security risk and to determine the status of LHR and Legal Wise clients within 90 days. The declaration has been suspended for 12 months, providing the DHA with time to comply with the order.
LHR has welcomed the ruling as a significant step towards ensuring a fair and just administrative process. Palesa Maloisane, LHR’s Legal Consultant for Statelessness, emphasized the importance of this judgment in preventing statelessness and restoring citizenship and dignity to those affected. She expressed hope that the DHA would swiftly resolve the cases, particularly those involving children, to enable affected individuals to reclaim their lives and access essential services.
Check Your Status
If you suspect that your ID may be among the 700,000 still blocked, it is crucial to check your status and take necessary actions. Contact the DHA or seek assistance from organizations like LHR to ensure your rights are restored. This ruling marks the beginning of a journey towards justice and dignity for all South Africans affected by this unjust practice.
Conclusion
The Gauteng High Court’s decision is a critical victory for human rights and the rule of law in South Africa. It underscores the necessity of fair administrative processes and the protection of individuals’ rights against arbitrary state actions. As the DHA works to comply with the court’s order, the hope is that those affected will soon be able to fully participate in society, free from the constraints of a blocked ID


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