Former Mozambican civil war refugees in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga, say they have no reason to celebrate World Refugee Day, which is being commemorated today. The group says life has been tough after their Identity Documents (ID) were blocked by the government.

“It has destroyed my planning for my future, I can’t open bank accounts to invest for my future or to plan for my way forward. It has destroyed my chance as a South African, its like I don’t belong in South Africa. I don’t know anyone in Mozambique where. All my family is here, I have nowhere to go if South Africa blocks my ID. I don’t understand,” says Edward Ndlovu, who is worried about his future after his ID was blocked by Home Affairs two years ago.

The 45-year old arrived in the country with his parents from Mozambique in 1989. The family settled in Bushbuckridge where he attended school. He was able to get an ID and life continued as normal until it was blocked in 2018.

Ndlovu says his life literally came to a standstill. He says his father suffered the same fate as his ID was also blocked.

A Grade 12 learner Lungile Mambane, who was born in Bushbuckridge, says she has the same problem. Her father has since died and the step-mother has left.

“They tell me that I must find my other mom so that I can make my ID. I am worried because I cant write my exam without my ID and when I go to university I must find my ID.”

In the video below, is a television news report on the plight of Mozambican civil war refugees:

Non-profit organisation, Mahlo ya Rixaka, says the area has thousands of families whose Identity Documents (IDs) were blocked.

The group settled in the then Gazankulu Homeland after being displaced by the civil war in Mozambique in the late 80s. Occupying Bushbuckridge from Ximungwe through to Limpopo, they were settled legally by local traditional leaders and the government.

Spokesperson of the NGO Mahlo ya Rixaka, Hamilton Thobakgale, says in the Bushbuckridge alone – there are over 5 000 people affected by the ID saga.

“IDs were allocated to several groups of these people and when these ID’s where allocated, remember in this country we have laws, our law says if you in a country for certain years and after some years you become a citizen. The IDs were given out and had a 1,8 number these ID should have been converted to a South African citizen,” he says.

The group is calling on the South African government to reinstate the identity documents.

“We have children that we cannot get birth certificates for after matric they cannot proceed with their studies. There are people who are running businesses and cannot access their money in banks because they are frozen due to the ID blockade. Can the government respect its own laws,” says Thobakgale.

The refugees say they obtained a court order last year that directs the Department of Home Affairs to legalise their IDs, but the department hasn’t done this.