Answer to a question from a reader

Can an abandoned child get a birth certificate?

The short answer

Yes, but you may need help to get Home Affairs to comply.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My child's friend was abandoned by her mother - we don't know where she is. I am now looking after her but she doesn't have any documents with which to apply for a birth certificate. She is 15 years old. 

The long answer

All birth registration is regulated by the Births and Deaths Registration Act of 1992. Late birth registration is split into 3 categories:

1. After 30 days but before 1 year;

2. After 1 year but before 15 years;

3. After 15 years.

These are the documents that Home Affairs says are needed to register a birth after 15 years:

  • Application for an ID (Form B1-9);

  • Completed Forms DHA-24, DHA-24/A x 2 and DHA-288 for the registration of birth;

  • Supporting documentation, as well as written reasons why the birth was not registered within 30 days of birth.

Home Affairs also says that you must be a South African citizen or permanent residence permit holder, with a valid South African ID.

Under Level 3 lockdown regulations, which we are in again (June 2021), a person had to make an appointment with Home Affairs to apply for late registration of birth, so this is probably the case now. 

Even though Section 28 of our Constitution says that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth, many undocumented children struggle to be issued with a birth certificate by Home Affairs. In 2018 Lawyers for Human Rights took Home Affairs to court to force them to issue a birth certificate to an abandoned child, which they had been refusing to do. The Pretoria High Court ordered Home Affairs to issue a birth certificate to the child. 

One of the problems with Home Affairs, though, is that officials are not always aware of court rulings and may not always comply with them. Because of Covid-19, Home Affairs has also got a big backlog and it may take even longer than usual.

If you have difficulties dealing with Home Affairs, the following organisations have had a lot of experience with them and may be able to assist you: 

Wishing you the best,

Answered on June 22, 2021, 1:56 p.m.

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