57-year old Eastern Cape woman without an ID

Faniswa Daba is scared that she might lose out on old age pension because she doesnt have an ID book. Photo by Manqulo Nyakombi

“This is very frustrating. I just thank God that I do not have children otherwise they were going to suffer just like me. I’m being treated as a stranger in my own country. I feel like I do not belong here because I do not have anything that identifies me as South African”

Mdantsane, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Faniswa Daba is 57 and does not have an identification document. She said she’s been in and out of the Home Affairs offices in Mdantsane and East London CBD trying to apply for an ID with no luck. As a result she has never voted and her fear is that she won’t be able to apply for an old age grant without an ID.

Daba from Masibulele Informal Settlement in Mdantsane NU3 says she was born in Kwelerha village just outside East London. At the time, there were few clinics in rural areas, and she, like her mother was born and gave birth at home, assisted by a midwife.

Her mother also never had an ID.

“Things were different then. Most villages had no clinics and we knew nothing about birth certificates,” she said.

Daba said she missed the one and only opportunity to apply for an ID in 1994 during the first government elections. Since then she’s struggled to find help. When she went to Home Affairs in Mdantsane she was told to bring a letter from a chief of the area where she was born.

The ward councillor’s letter she had was not admissible, she was told, because ‘only a letter from the chief is allowed’.

“I told the officials at Home Affairs that I left Kwelerha while I was very young and we no longer had a house there. Even the chief there won’t know me because I didn’t grow up in Kwelerha. We left the village long time ago. No one knows me there. The only life I know is here in Mdantsane but they refuse to help me.”

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She said the last time she was at Home Affairs in East London CBD was three years ago. She told the officials that she can come with two people she grew up with to be her witnesses but they insisted on the letter from the chief.

“My life is on standstill, I tried to find a job as a domestic worker but who would want to hire someone without an ID,” said Daba sadly.

“This is very frustrating. I just thank God that I do not have children otherwise they were going to suffer just like me. I’m being treated as a stranger in my own country. I feel like I do not belong here because I do not have anything that identifies me as South African,” said Daba holding back tears.

Daba told Elitsha that women her age who are not working are benefiting from food parcels provided by the Social Development Department but for her to get the food parcel she needs an ID. “I watch people getting groceries from Social Development and I no longer bother going there because I know they are going to ask for an ID that I do not have,” she said.

We met Daba in her one-room shack she shares with her husband, Thembinkosi Mvinjelwa. Mvinjelwa who is a pensioner, said he has put Daba into a funeral policy to which he pays R150 each month.

Faniswa Daba and her husband Thembinkosi Mvinjelwa in their one-room shack in Mdantsane. Photo by Manqulo Nyakombi

“This whole thing is very frustrating. As much as I’m her husband we are not legally married. If I pass away first how will she be able to claim from my policy because she does not have an ID?” asked Mvinjelwa. “All I want is for my wife to have an ID.”

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Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said the matter has been referred to the Home Affairs provincial manager in the Eastern Cape who will delegate officials to investigate the matter with a view to assist.

He said they are going to contact Daba and invite her to the nearest Home Affairs in the quest to resolve the issue.

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