Home Affairs urged to ensure indigent South Africans get free DNA tests to prove citizenship

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Home Affairs has again been urged to ensure that the National Health Laboratory Service conducts free DNA tests for indigent South Africans where such a test is required to prove one’s South African citizenship.

This follows the Munyai twins’ struggle to be identified as South Africans. Their father struggled for three decades to obtain their birth certificates.

Now 31 years old, both Lebo and Lebogang Munyai finally received their birth certificates. Their father raised them after their mother abandoned them in a hospital two weeks after they were born.

But for three decades, he’d been tossed around by Home Affairs. They needed him to prove his paternity before he could apply for their birth certificates. After obtaining DNA results from a local GP, Home Affairs still refused to recognise it.

“They told him that as a man he couldn’t do birth certificates for us, so he was told to do DNA tests to prove paternity that indeed he didn’t steal us we were his children,” says Lebo Munyai.

“He went to the police station and also contacted social workers trying to get us birth certificates and things were not easy because we were only surviving on the piece jobs he was doing and the SASSA grants he was getting,” says Lebogang Munyai.

The pair was finally assisted by the Gauteng Democratic Alliance (DA) Women’s Network. It facilitated their DNA tests, done with their surviving paternal aunt. More frustrating is that they could not record their children with Home Affairs because they were required to have IDs.

“Now I’m only waiting for my smartcard so that I can go do birth certificates for my children and also to go look for a job,” Lebo Munyai adds.

The Women’s Network says one of the key causes of this inter-generational statelessness, is the lack of free DNA testing for indigent South African fathers or relatives.

“We reiterate the DA’s call for Minister Motsoaledi to ensure the availability of free DNA tests because the right to an identity is envisioned as a basic human right in our constitution which is a basic right for every citizen not least to the most vulnerable in our community. Therefore, we’re proud of the role we played in addressing this instance of injustice and helping Lebo and Lebogang be fully recognised as true South Africans,” says Sandy Mbuvha from the DA Women’s network.

Lawyers for Human Rights previously indicated that there were no statistics available on statelessness in South Africa. Nonetheless, there are estimates of the prevalence of stateless persons or persons at risk of statelessness in the country.

There are just over 15 million unregistered or undocumented people, including South Africans. 3 million are under the age of 18. However, being unregistered or undocumented is not synonymous with being stateless.

Being unable to prove nationality due to a lack of documentation can place an individual at an elevated risk of statelessness.

The Department of Home Affairs was unable to comment on whether or not indigent families would be given free DNA tests.