From stateless to citizen

Even though the Constitution of South Africa states that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth, for various reasons children can become stateless (not registered as a citizen of any country) or their birth registration can be delayed. Children in this situation do not have access to the privileges and rights afforded to a registered citizen, such as access to healthcare and education.

Colt’s mother approached the LRC asking for help to get Colt’s birth registered and a birth certificate issued. Without these documents, the 4-year-old would not be considered a South African citizen. Although Colt’s mother was not born in this country, she is married to a South African citizen. Colt was born a few months into their marriage.

Four-year-old ColtWhen attempting to register the birth of their son, Colt’s parents faced a number of challenges. The Department of Home Affairs initially lost their paperwork and claimed that their marriage was not legal. Through resubmission of the necessary paperwork and numerous documents, his parents were able to show that this was not the case. However, even with all the proper documents in place, Colt’s future remained in a state of limbo because his birth was still not registered.

Even though Colt’s parents followed the correct procedure in order to obtain the birth registration and the birth certificate of their son, his mother had to return multiple times to the Department of Home Affairs; without obtaining results. In desperation she decided to seek legal assistance.

The LRC assisted with the completion of the application as provided by the Home Affairs website, prepared an affidavit on her behalf, and wrote a letter of demand to the Department of Home Affairs. The very next day, Colt’s birth was registered and a birth certificate was issued. Colt is now registered as a citizen of South Africa and no longer living in a state of uncertainty and vulnerability.

By Claire Martens and Priscilla Guerrero

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the Realising Rights bloggers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Legal Resources Centre. The Legal Resources Centre is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the bloggers.


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The Legal Resources Centre is a public interest law clinic established in South Africa in 1979

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