The Bill of Rights states that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth and that the child’s best interests in every matter concerning the child are of the utmost importance. Without a birth certificate, children become invisible.
“I was nobody and did not belong anywhere.” Lebo Maphoditsa is a 40-year-old mother of four who is still not recognized as a South African citizen because she was not registered at birth. Unfortunately, Lebo is not the only one, and her statelessness has meant that she cannot register her own children at birth. Unicef estimates that 3.7 million children have been orphaned in South Africa and according to the Department of Social Development, more than 2000 children are abandoned annually.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines statelessness as “individuals who are not considered citizens or nationals under the operation of the laws of any country”. Stateless children do not have access to primary education, cannot write matric exams and cannot have a future in identity in adulthood. Many children who are abandoned or whose parents are asylum seekers become stateless if administrative duties are neglected, or by law they cannot register for citizenship.
Where citizenship is disputed …