Young woman in bitter struggle for ID

Chwayita Nelani shows Vukani the maternity certificate that her mother was given when she gave birth to her. But since the she was born she has never had a birth certificate.

A young Khayelitsha woman, Chwayita Nelani, has been forced to quit school because she does not have a birth certificate.

The 21-year-old mother of one was compelled to drop out of Grade 11, at New Eisleben High School, in 2016, after she could not produce the certificate.

The move has shattered her dreams and ambitions of becoming a social worker and providing a better future for her family.

Ms Nelani added that her younger sister had also been kicked out of school for the same reason. She explained that when her mother gave birth to her at Site B Community Health Care Centre in 1997 she used her married surname to register the child, although she still used her maiden surname. Her mother was apparently given a maternity certificate, which confirmed the child had been born to her, at the facility.

She was to have taken this document to Home Affairs when she applied for Ms Nelani’s official birth certificate.

Ms Nelani said things got ugly when her mother decided to apply for a new ID with her married name a few years after she was born. It was then that she discovered that her husband had divorced her and the application for an ID with her married surname was denied.

As a result, she has an ID with her maiden name.

Ms Nelani said when her mother applied for her birth certificate at Home Affairs a few years after she was born, the officials told them that their surnames did not match and they were therefore unable to help her.

Trying to explain the matter to the officials did not help.

Ms Nelani said she used the maternity certificate when she started school. It was when she enrolled for Grade 8 at New Eisleben in 2013 that she was told to bring the birth certificate.

She said her mother promised to bring it, but pleaded with the school to register her first.

Since then she has been coming up with excuses to avoid presenting the birth certificate – which she does not have.

She has always feared she’d be kicked out of school if they found out she did not have a birth certificate. And that’s what happened in 2016. And while the school did try to assist her, they were not successful in their attempts to get her birth certificate. As a result, she was then told to leave the school and sort the matter out.

“It’s like I don’t exist. My life has been completely put on hold. I don’t know what to do any more. My future has been ruined,” said Ms Nelani.

“I have a child and I can’t apply for his birth certificate because I don’t have a birth certificate myself.”

Department of Home Affairs spokeperson, Thabo Mokgola, said the matter has been referred to the provincial manager for Home Affairs in the Western Cape for a speedy resolution. He said Home Affairs officials would be assigned to assist Ms Nelani.