Births and Deaths Amendment Bill [B18-2010]: public hearings

Home Affairs

23 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr B Martins (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Law Society of South Africa submission focused on areas of concern about certain wording in the Bill. The organisation placed emphasis on the sections in the Bill dealing with children and marriage.   

The Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security submission focused on the right of every child to have access to a name and nationality at birth. ACESS placed emphasis on the right of every citizen to have access to state benefits and the right of every citizen to documentation granting access to those benefits. In keeping with that goal, ACESS proposed making the registration process easier to ensure that documentation could be attained easily. ACESS recommended that the Bill recognise additional people on its list of people who could register births thereby making it easier for people to gain access to documentation. The organisation had a special guest speaker, Ms Nozuko Mengcane, who added to its submission. She told a story of deprivation of state benefits due to her difficulty in securing documents.
 
Members recommended that the Law Society make recommendations on the wording problems it had highlighted. They suggested that everyone who was eligible to receive South African documentation should receive such documentation without impediment. Members asked if ACESS had had consultation with traditional leaders in making its submission. Clarity was sought on the definition of caregivers. Members asked questions specific to the special guest presenter who had personal experience of the difficulties experienced by people who do not have identification documentation.

Meeting report

Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) submission
Mr William Kerfoot, LSSA representative, focused attention on wording in the proposed Bill specifically dealing with marriage and with children born out of wedlock. The LSSA recommended that the name of the father of a child be included on the birth certificate and that the section in a birth certificate which noted children born out of wedlock, was offensive. The organisation submitted that the term ‘spousal relationship’ should substitute ‘marriage’ as it was more wide ranging and encompassing. 

Discussion
The Chairperson welcomed the submission but asked why it had not provided proposed amendments to correct the issues it raised in its submission.

Mr Kerfoot responded that he would have to raise the issue with the LSSA but that he would submit suggestions via email after consulting with the organisation.

Mr M Mnqasela (DA) welcomed the LSSA’s submission and expressed his appreciation for LSSA’s input.

Alliance for Children’s Entitlement to Social Security (ACESS)
Mr Kevin Roussel, ACESS Executive Director, and Ms Sanja Bornman, Head of Policy and Development, emphasised the importance of acknowledging the right of every child to a nationality and the rights afforded by that nationality. The organisation highlighted the importance of access to documentation for rightful citizens and the importance of government to make it easier for citizens to get that documentation.

ACESS took issue with a provision in the proposed Bill which recognised only guardians and parents as the people who could rightfully register a child for a birth certificate. The organisation proposed that Home Affairs also take into account caregivers as well as some children who were void of both parents and guardians. This proposal would make it easier for orphaned children to gain access to identity and by association benefits due to them from the state. 

The organisation proposed that the Department of Home Affairs consider a process of pre-registration for children. This would allow for children to be registered on the Population Registry before they were born. The organisation proposed that the pre-registration should be concluded upon the selection of a name for the child. This would counteract the impact of the late registration period of only 30 days proposed by the Bill and ensure that the process of registering a child could be given every chance of success. ACESS proposed that the Bill make provision for the name of the father of a child to be added to the child’s birth certificate. 

Ms Nozuko Mengcane told the Committee her story of difficulty in gaining access to identification documentation. Her mother had died without identification or the issuance of a death certificate and as a result, she had had problems registering herself and her two children for welfare grants. She did not have an identity document and she could not get a job because of it. The purpose of her presentation was to highlight the difficulty involved with gaining access to documentation and the importance of that documentation.
 
Discussion
Mr M Mnqasela said that he welcomed the ACESS submission. He recognised that there were problems for fathers trying to register children born to them and agreed with the ACESS recommendation that the name of the child’s father be included on a birth certificate. He recommended that all citizens eligible for benefits granted to South Africans should be allowed to have those via access to documentation.  

Ms T Gasebonwe (ANC) sought clarity on whether ACESS was suggesting that any caregiver be allowed to register a child and, if that was the case, how the well-being of the child could be verified after registration had taken place.

Ms Bornman responded that the organisation was indeed suggesting that caregivers be given that power. The ‘caregiver’ referred to would be the individual tasked with looking after the child on a day to day basis. This then nullified the need of the child’s well-being having to be checked by the Department.  

Ms M Maunye (ANC) asked if the organisation had consulted traditional leaders about the proposed idea of registration in remote locations. She asked what constituted ‘caregiver’. 

Ms Bornman replied that traditional leaders had indeed been consulted and they voiced their acquiescence to the proposed amendments. She said that ‘caregiver’ referred to someone who was responsible for the daily care of a child without exception.

Ms Z Balindlela (COPE) asked Ms Mengcane how her mother was buried without identification.

Ms Bornman answered on Ms Mengcane’s behalf saying that Ms Mengcane’s mother did not have an identification document to begin with and the undertaker, who was contracted to bury her, did not issue a death certificate.

Mr Siphiwe Furgerson Mayisela, who was slated to make a submission, was absent from proceedings.

The meeting was adjourned.

 

 

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