Minister of Home Affairs on the launch of the National Population Registration Campaign


17 Mar 2010

The Minister of Home Affairs briefed the media on the details of the proposed launch of the National Population Registration Campaign which aimed to make certain that all South African citizens were recorded on the population register.


Q: Could you run by me the procedure that will have to be followed after 2011 for late registration or are you just going to refuse to register people?

A: The Minister replied that all South Africans had a right to be registered and that there was no way a South African could be refused registration. No South African would be stopped from registering but the Department of Home Affairs would stop those who wanted to enter fraudulently. At the moment all processes were centralised, every office took in applications, did their assessments and interviewed the people who applied. All that was done at a local office and the local office would then decide whether or not the person was a South African citizen. The information would then be sent to Pretoria where an Identity Document (ID) would be produced. After the campaign, the Department intended to centralise this process.

Q: Do you have any estimates from your research as to how many people are not registered and should be?

A: The Minister replied that the Department did not have the exact figure but in the pilot that it had carried out, there was evidence that showed that a large number of people were not registered on the system. It was clear that there were thousands of people in South Africa who were not registered. The team went to a district in the Eastern Cape to conduct the pilot study. This study revealed that there were thousands of people in that particular district alone who were not registered. Even adults who should have had an ID already were not even in possession of a birth certificate yet.

Do you have any idea how many people are present on the population register when they should actually not be?

A: The Minister replied that the Department had identified certain people who were suspected to be on the register by means of other criteria. The real clearing of the population register would be done after the process of the population register has been completed, because other issues would be taken into consideration as well. For example, very few white people had not been registered so if they looked at the population register and found that there were thousands of white people who had not been registered or who got into the population register through late registration then that should give them flashing lights that something was wrong. Those people must be looked at individually.

Q: You say there are thousands of people in the villages you mentioned who are not registered, I would assume it is not only those villages you mentioned but many other villages have a similar problem. It therefore means that our population is far more than the estimated 45 or 50 million. Is that the case?

A: The Minister admitted that there were many unregistered people in villages and cities around the country. People had actively started registering children when they were looking for grants but generally there was not much registering of children at birth. At this stage, the Department would only be able to give the figures of how many people was not included in the population register when they had completed the register. Those people had to be counted together with the people who would be taken out of the population register.

Q: In you statement you say that by the end of the year, within one year you want to have registered the majority of children born in South Africa and the last time I checked you and the refugee agents were saying that we have over five million illegal persons in South Africa. I do not know whether that is true or where that figures came from but I will assume that those illegal persons gave birth to children in South Africa so are you talking about children born from illegal immigrants as well?

A: The Minister replied that when it came to refugees every child had a right to be registered and to have a birth certificate. But if a person was not a South African of course the person’s birth certificate did not entitle that person from entering the population register as a citizen. The government still however had an obligation to give the child a birth certificate. The government did register children who were born from foreign nationals and they gave them birth certificates because it was the registration of a birth which stated when and where a child was born and it stated who ones parents were but it did not give the child citizenship unless one of their parents was a South African or if the child had no other state that he or she could lay claim to.

Q: In June you mentioned a research where you could de-linked the process of taking finger prints from the actual ID processes. I just wanted to find out how far that actually was.

The Minister replied that what they had found was that finger prints could be taken quite early on from children, even around the age of ten because the pattern did not change. The pattern grew in size but it did not change its pattern. So what they had decided to do was to complete the process of the population register, and once they were done with that one of the things they would look into was to do research on whether or not South Africans agreed with taking fingerprints from young children.

Q: How far are you going to help children particularly those who have lost their parents and relatives or next of kin.

A: The Minister replied that the government would register children who had lost their parents and had no relatives. However, it was obvious that the government still needed to know who their parents were and what their surnames were. That would be a difficult process particularly if they were over the age of 16. However, if they were younger the process would be much easier because it was easier to track a child and identify the child as a South African than it would be to identify an adult. The government was working with orphanages because that was another vulnerable group of children who did not have parents but who still had the right to be registered and should be registered.

Q: Given that the Director-General (DG)was leaving the Department at the end of the month, what were the plans in terms of succession?

A: The Minister replied that the position had been advertised and the normal processes would follow.

Q: How soon is the new DG likely to start?

A: The Minister replied that the new DG would commence as soon as the processes were completed. The Department had already concluded the interview phase and were now waiting for the Department of Public Service and Administration and the NA to do what they needed to do. The Minister could not give the exact date.

Q: Instead of going through the expensive process of elimination, would it not be easier to register all those people who are in the country at the moment?

A: The Minister recalled that in 1996 there was a window period that the government gave which allowed all those people who had been working in South Africa for five years and more to apply for South African citizenship. Some people applied and others did not. Many people did not apply due to the fact that some of South Africa’s neighbouring countries did not allow for dual citizenship. Many people did not want to exercise the difficult choice of giving p their original citizenship and applying for South African citizenship.

Q: That was the point I was trying to make. It is not as if you are going to have all the illegal people here trying to register but it was going to save you the task of sifting out all those who were illegal.

A: The Minister replied that the window did not say everyone in South Africa- it said those who had been working in South Africa for five years or more. It did not state everyone in South Africa must become a South African citizen, that task would be a very difficult task.

Q: With such an intent focus on South Africans and being South African, do you have any fears and are you making any plans to try and prevent upsurges of xenophobia?

A: The Minister reminded the media that the briefing was only about the specific campaign. However, the Department continued to review its immigration policy. There was an understanding that the immigration policy must be in line with trying to grow the country economically, socially and culturally. South Africa should not be a country that tried to prevent people from entering and allowing for a few exceptions, it should be the other way around. While the Department was working on the campaign, it was also working on other policies such as when it came to students who came to South Africa to study; they had to apply for student permits and had to deposit money in case they needed to be deported. Students who came to South Africa to study were already accepted at a university and they had funds to pay for their fees. When those students came to South Africa, they should be given a permit already from their country of origin so when they arrived in South Africa they could concentrate on their studies. For most of the students, who came from SADC countries, it did not make sense to demand from them money to deport them if they did not return to their country. The government had done its research, not many students who studied in South Africa stayed. But even if they returned to their country, they still contributed to the economic development. So those who wanted to come to South Africa to invest or those who want to enter as tourists, that would be made easier and it will be fast tracked. The government was also looking at how to deal with economic migrants. In addition, the Department was looking at people who were coming at the lower end of the economic field, who wanted to work in South Africa and used the asylum process. The government was doing all that to make South Africa realise that in a global world where the economy, social and cultural economic diversity was something that was welcomed.

Q: I was thinking more along the lines of where for instance your team goes to an area where there has been xenophobia in the past and some unfortunate Zimbabwean tried to get on the population register, under those circumstances with an intense intention to be South African are you not worried that tensions might rise?

A: The Minster admitted that she was concerned about this but hoped that nobody would be foolish enough to say they were South African when they knew they were not.

Going back to the issue of asylum seekers- I just want to follow up because your Department was also reviewing the size structure function of the refugee board- I just want to find out how far you are with that and if there is any update.

A: The Minister replied that they had just appointed an advisory board. It was going to be a body who would advise them on lots of issues around people who came into South Africa from other countries whether it was refugees or different migrants.

How far are you with improving the security features such as the digital features with regard to passports and IDs.

A: The Minister replied that they were in the process of rolling out the line capture of the passport because the passports was the state of the art when it came to security features but unfortunately it was produced without the support infrastructure because it supposed to have received live captures information. At some stage, the Department might recall all the old passports but there was no point in doing that now until they had rolled out the infrastructure and they knew that people could get live capture at which ever office they went to. When the Department issued the smartcard, it hoped that all the information could also be live capture so that it could eliminate in the process some of the loop holes which allowed people to bring paper deformed to somebody who should not be getting them. But it was also time for South Africa to get the proper infrastructure.

In terms of the birth certificates the government also introduced some security features but in addition they were adding the names and where possible the ID of the mother to the first birth certificate. That already linked the baby to somebody who was now on the population register.

Q: What is the difference between doing away with the process by 2011 and eradicating the process by the end of December 2010?

A: The Minister replied that the campaign was going to run full steam for a year and the following year would deal with the last few issues that existed because for the registration of people above the age of 15, the Department planned on doing away with that in a year’s time. The not so urgent one was the registration of births because according to the law a person was supposed to register a birth within 30 days. They were introducing that in earnest in the campaign. It was said in Parliament that they wanted people to at least register their children before their first birthday.


Press Briefing by

Minister Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma

National Population Registration Campaign

18 March 2010




On Tuesday, 23rd of March, President Jacob Zuma, supported by myself, Deputy Minister Malusi Gigaba, the Eastern Cape Provincial leadership as well as the leadership of the District Municipality will officially launch the National Population Registration campaign at the Ntlaza Sports Field, Libode, Umtata, under the theme “2010 the year of action to deliver quality services to the people.”


The choice of venue is symbolic as this Campaign is about reaching out to every single South African, especially those in the rural hinterlands of our country where facilities are few and distances to towns far.



Our strategic objectives is the consolidation of a secure and credible National Population Register (NPR) with a single point of entry through an expedited process of registration and application of enabling documents to citizens.


Within one year, we aim to have registered the majority of children born in South Africa on our National Population Register.


Further, we aim to make certain, that every South African citizen is in possession of a South African ID book with information that is verified and secure.


Through this massive registration drive, we aim to reach our ultimate objective that secures the integrity of the National Population Register, South Africa’s biggest and most important database of citizen information.  



As the registration of a birth is the first step in the citizens’ journey our campaign starts here.


South Africa has a large number of children under the age of 15 whose births have not been registered, and as such have no official status in the country or in the population register.


Our research shows that the majority of people who do not have birth certificates are those who are between the ages of 1 day and 18 years


A large number of people end up registering at late birth, in a process known as Late Registration of Birth whereby people register for birth when they are 15 years or above.


This is a process we want to do away with by the end of 2011.


Whilst we have put in place a very strenuous new process to vet all Late Registrations of Birth, the process is still open to abuse by those wishing to fraudulently obtain South African citizenship.


The non-registration of birth also has a negative impact on the quality of the National Population Register and negatively impacts on government planning for services and infrastructure.


The National Population Registration Campaign will therefore exert a countrywide massive drive to:


1.       Eradicate the late registration of births and discontinue the process by December 2010 and October 2011 respectively.

2.       Ensure that all new births are registered within 30 days of delivery with immediate effect.

3.       Ensure that all South Africans who turn sixteen (16) years of age and those who are above 16 years receive identity documents.


Apart from our concerted effort around the registration of births we will also encourage young people to apply for an ID as soon as they reach the qualification age of 16 years.


For our campaign to be successful we need a buy-in and an active participation of every South African because this is about much more than just ensuring enabling documents for every citizen.


This campaign ultimately is about ensuring the integrity of our country’s citizenship – a key element of national security in defence of our hard freedom and democracy.




Issued by Department of Home Affairs

18 March 2010



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