Answer to a question from a reader

I have been told that I cannot write my matric without an ID but Home Affairs won't issue me one.

The short answer

It is unconstitutional to be prevented from writing your matric without an ID or other documentation. Your father can make a sworn affidavit to help your ID application.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I use my mother's surname but I lost contact with her long ago. I want to apply for an ID because I have been told that I need one to write my matric, but Home Affairs says that I need to apply with someone who shares my surname. I live with my father but we don't have the same surname. I tried to locate my mother but she is nowhere to be found.

The long answer

There are two separate issues here: getting the Smartcard ID from Home Affairs and whether your school can exclude you from writing matric if you don’t have the ID card.

Let’s deal with getting the Smartcard ID first: 

If your birth was registered, you would have been issued with a birth certificate where your own name and ID number and place of birth would be recorded. If you had an unabridged birth certificate, both your parents’ names, ID numbers, places of birth and country of origin would be recorded. An abridged or shortened birth certificate would normally have only the mother and child’s details but would still have your ID number, which would be key to getting your Smartcard ID.

If your birth was not registered and you don’t have a birth certificate or an ID number, you would need to fill out the following forms in black ink at Home Affairs to register the birth: DHA-24, DHA-24/A x 2 and DHA-288. Only then could you apply for the ID by filling out DHA Form B1-9.

If you do have an ID, Home Affairs says that for first time issuing of issuing of smart ID cards to youth of 16 years and over, you need to bring:

  • Birth certificate;

  • Certified copy of one of the parents’ ID documents;

  • Proof of address.

Your father could also make a sworn affidavit that he is your father, although you are using your mother’s surname, and that neither he or you have been able to trace your mother to ask her to assist you to get the smart ID card. 

If Home Affairs still rejects this, you could contact one of the following organisations for help:

Scalabrini Centre (Cape Town):


Tel: 021 465 6433

Legal Resources Centre:


Tel: Cape Town: 021 481 3000

Tel: Johannesburg: 011 836 9831  

Lawyers for Human Rights:


Tel: Cape Town: 021 424 8561

Tel Johannesburg Office and law clinic: 011 339 1960

Turning to the second problem of not being able to write matric without having an ID card:

In 2019, Judge Selby Mbenenge in the Makhanda High Court interdicted the Eastern Cape Department of Education from excluding or removing any child, even illegal foreign children, simply because the child did not have an ID, a birth certificate or other documentation.

The court was told that there were almost a million undocumented learners of whom 87% were South African, whose parents had been unable, for various reasons, to obtain documentation from Home Affairs.

Judge Mbenenge said the Constitution protected the right of all children to basic education and that no child should be excluded from an education.

Where a learner could not provide a birth certificate, the court ordered school principals to accept alternate proofs of identity such as an affidavit or sworn statement by the parent, caregiver or guardian.

This meant that in 2019 more than 13,000 undocumented students were able to write their matric.

So, you should not be excluded from writing your matric because of not having an ID card, but it may be that your school does not know that the 2019 court judgement had changed the law. The law used to be, under Clause 15 of the Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools of 1998, that if a child couldn’t produce their birth certificate within a year, they could be excluded from school and from writing matric. The judge found Clause 15 unconstitutional. 

If your school still refuses to accept you, you could ask the same organisations mentioned above for help.

Wishing you the best,

Answered on Jan. 17, 2022, 12:39 p.m.

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