Monday, August 31, 2009

Man kills himself after Home Affairs rejects ID application

Man kills himself after home affairs official tears up application, insults him

Johannesburg (Sapa) - Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said she would not tolerate officials who "think they rule the world" following the suicide of a man whose identity document application was allegedly torn up by an official.

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People who work in those offices, majority of them, [think] they rule the world," said Dlamini-Zuma at a media conference in Umzimkhulu, KwaZulu-Natal, were a service delivery workshop was taking place.

In a sound clip of the conference supplied by the department, she said she had received a distressing call on Friday night to inform her that Douglas Skhumbuso Mhlongo had killed himself, after an alleged incident at the Pinetown home affairs office.

She explained that from what she understood, Skhumbuzo Mhlongo, who was born in 1987, and did not seem to have parents, had been trying to get an ID.

Obtaining an ID without a birth certificate requires late registration and involves drawing on statements from people who say they know the applicant, as well as an interview with the people and the applicant by the department.

"The... person who was conducting the interview was not satisfied with the information and then said this young man was lying and tore the papers and threw them at them, and said that clearly they are not even South African and used this derogative word that they use for foreigners, and basically chased them away and condemned this young man to no life.

"And of course what is worse is that he was looking forward to starting a job but obviously they had said he must bring his ID when he comes to work and if he doesn't have an ID then they [will] give it to someone else.

"And of course when it became clear that they are not prepared to give [him] an ID, they are not even prepared to accept him as a South African he then decided to end his life."

Sounding upset, Dlamini-Zuma said: "Obviously as a person who has that portfolio it's very difficult, so we hope that it won't happen again...

"We are going to find the person who acted in that way and we won't have tolerance for people like that."

Dlamini-Zuma said they would identify the official who allegedly tore up the documents, but said:
"That's not enough because we have to get rid of this culture".

She said the department was a "difficult" one which had never had a proper culture of service or ubuntu.

She said without an ID, people have no life and this should make officials sensitive and vigilant in making sure they are not frustrated in their quest for documentation.

"But for some reason it seems to have the reverse, people think it's power, they can demand what they want from the public. They can demand money, they can demand whatever. and if people don't give the bribes, then they don't give us the service," she said.

Dlamini-Zuma said many of the difficulties officials faced were not envisaged when the department's processes were drawn up.

Women with young children die and the children are not registered, for example. The grandparents do not know the father, and they do not know what to do.

"And then it becomes an endless problem just to get a birth certificate [for those] children."

Even if their parents were dead, the children had rights, she continued.

The workshop, attended by a wide sector or society representatives, should assist the government in "getting wisdom from the community" when formulating procedures.

She urged officials in the department to treat people as they would like themselves or their families to be treated.

"Don't do something that you wouldn't like done to you or to your mother or to your grandmother or your sister, just do what you would expect if you were the client or the customers."

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