Answer to a question from a reader

How can a Zimbabwean woman who is here legally register the birth of her child?

The short answer

She can go to the Department of Home Affairs. Because she and the father are Zimbabwean, the child's birth certificate will not have an ID number.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

How can my Zimbabwean nurse register her son’s birth and get him a birth certificate? She has the hospital record of his birth and she has a permit to be here and a passport, but no marriage certificate or anything of the father's. The father is also Zimbabwean.

The long answer

All children born in South Africa must be registered at the Department of Home Affairs within 30 days of their birth in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act (BDRA) of 1992. She should take her documents (permit and passport) to Home Affairs together with the hospital paper recording the birth. She will then be given an unabridged birth certificate recording all the details of the child and its parents. The birth certificate will not have an ID, since the child’s parents are both Zimbabwean.

(Since the 2019 High Court case in the Eastern Cape, the law that the birth of children should be registered by both parents must be read as meaning “where possible”. That means that she is within her rights to register the child on her own if the father cannot accompany her, for reasons such as not having a permit to be here.)

If the child’s birth is registered after 30 days, but within one year, she will have to complete and submit Form B1-24 to Home Affairs, along with written reasons why the birth was not registered.

A child born in South Africa to foreign parents can apply for South African citizenship by birth when he is eighteen, if he has not lived anywhere else but South Africa, and if his birth has been registered under the BDRA.

Section 4(3) of the Citizenship Act says:

“A child born in the Republic of parents who are not South African citizens or who have not been admitted into the Republic for permanent residence, qualifies to apply for South African citizenship upon becoming a major if_

(a)     he or she has lived in the Republic from the date of his or her birth to the date of becoming a major; and

(b)     his or her birth has been registered in accordance with the provisions of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1992 (Act 51 of 1992).”

If she experiences any difficulties at Home Affairs when registering her son’s birth, she can ask 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


Cape Town: 021 424 8561 

Johannesburg Office and law clinic: 011 339 1960

Wishing you the best,

Answered on April 19, 2024, 9:55 a.m.

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