New birth certificate regulations bring new pain to parents

New regulations concerning birth certificates has led to lengthening queues at Home Affairs offices AAISHA DADI PATEL endured the wait.

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I am the oldest of my parents’ five daughters. Three of my sisters, aged 13, 10 and 8, are still in school. They’re adorable but they can also be an administrative nightmare. That nightmare escalated when the Department of Home Affairs passed new regulations requiring South African children to be issued with unabridged birth certificates.

This week I found myself standing in a long queue with my mother, waiting to collect my younger sisters’ new birth certificates. People shifted from foot to foot, babies cried, and the air was thick with the promise of infectious diseases.

We got there just in time to see a woman who had had enough, lose her temper.

“Where is the queue? I’m waiting here for an hour already but who’s next, do we even know? This place is so mixed up it’s no wonder you can’t even do what you get paid to do!” she shouted.

It was the second time she was making an application for an unabridged birth certificate, she said. It had taken her two hours to make the application last August. Then in November, she found out that the department had lost her paperwork and she had to repeat the process.

“I need to be here because my child needs this, or they won’t accept him into grade one,” she later told me.

We were in the same boat.

My mother could not complete my 13-year-old sister’s high school application because she could not produce her unabridged birth certificate. That’s how we found ourselves in a queue at Home Affairs, waiting to collect unabridged birth certificates for each of my younger sisters.

Abridged birth certificates, which specify a child’s identity number, full name and country of birth, used to be standard issue. But they look like computer printouts and were apparently easy to forge. As of March this year babies are issued with unabridged birth certificates, which state these details as well as both parents’ particulars, including their identity numbers, full names, city or town of birth, and citizenship.

From October this year. parents and guardians to travelling with their children will be required to produce an unabridged birth certificate when travelling overseas. They have also encouraged parents and guardians to apply for unabridged birth certificates for their children, even if they do not have plans to travel. Overseas travel is not the only thing that you need an unabridged birth certificate for. Many schools now only accept unabridged birth certificates for registering a child.

Parents of children born before March 2013 need to apply for unabridged birth certificates to replace the old abridged birth certificates. The process takes about six weeks and costs R75.

But it is not a particularly efficient process. We were just there to collect my sisters’ birth certificates – my mother having made the application weeks ago – and still it took 45 minutes before my mother could present her receipt and another 15 minutes for my sisters’ names to be called out. Even then, only two of the three birth certificates were ready. This despite the fact that my mother had received a notification saying they’d been processed.

The new requirements are geared at preventing human trafficking and that at least is a good cause. But it doesn’t make a day of queuing at Home Affairs any less frustrating, particularly when paperwork goes missing.

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