Still hoping for IDs after 30 years of waiting in vain

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Life for the people of Mhlabuyalingana, meaning "the place where the land is flat", is not easy.

Most of the people in this northern KwaZulu-Natal community are illiterate and unemployed, and many of them have no identity documents, which worsens their situation.

The life of Fakazile Nabezile Mhlongo, 51, is at a standstill.

She has been waiting for 30 years for an ID, which would enable her to work and to claim a social security grant.

Mhlongo applied for her ID in 1977 in Empangeni, where she was a domestic worker , but she failed to get one.

"I am nonexistent. I don't belong to any country and it hurts. It has ruined my life and my chances of getting any form of state grant," she said.

Because she does not have an ID book, her four children cannot get their birth certificates.

Two of them are eligible for child-support grants - but their mother can't claim them.

"Our lives are a mess," Mhlongo said.

Mhlongo said that when she applied for her ID book, 30 years ago, she followed all the correct procedures.

"A woman I worked with, who was my relative, helped me to apply. I was promised that I would get it, but it never happened."

Though she has now applied eight times for an ID without success, she has not given up hope.

"I need my ID so that my children can get their certificates and IDs. I don't want them to suffer like me," she said.

The family survives on the pension of the children's grandmother, which is not enough.

A few metres from Mhlongo's dilapidated home lives Ntombini Khumalo, who was born on February 13 1930.

She had a dompass and applied for a barcoded ID, but did not get it. So she too can't access grants to which she is entitled

She said she went to a mobile Home Affairs office on Friday during a visit to the area by the Home Affairs minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and got the shock of her life.

"They told me I was dead, but there I was in front of them," Khumalo said.

Community worker Johnson Gwala described the situation in the area as "horrible".

"It's like this is a separate area, outside South Africa.

"People here have so many problems with Home Affairs. People as old as 40 or 70 don't have identity documents," he said.

Gwala said the main problem is that people have to travel more than 200km to reach Home Affairs' offices in Mtubatuba at a cost of R50 a return trip. That's in addition to the cost of R40 for ID photographs.

A spokesman for Home Affairs promised to investigate .