New ID system planned for South Africa – here’s what you need to know

 ·4 Jan 2021

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has published its new draft identity management policy for public comment. The policy aims to introduce a new ID system in the country which will act as a single source of information on all South Africans.

The department said that the current Identification Act is now more than 20 years old and is not based on a policy that considers key local and global developments in managing official personal information.

“This in part explains why the current legislation and systems are outdated, fragmented and do not fully align with constitutional principles of equality, non-discrimination and human dignity,” it said.

In addition to outdated legislation, the department also acknowledged issues with crime and corruption which has led to the theft of identities in South Africa.

“It is currently possible for anyone who has not applied for an ID to successfully claim and use the identity of another person who has also not applied for an ID,” the DHA said.

It explained that this is possible because the biometrics of South African children are not captured after birth.

“The DHA currently has no way to reliably verify that a child who presents a birth certificate as proof of identity during interactions with the department – for example, when applying for an ID for the first time – is truly the person whose birth the certificate is meant to certify.

“Any child can lay claim to the identity of another child and such instances have been recorded.”

To address these and other issues, the DHA has made the following recommendations:

  • Records of persons throughout their lifespan – Every birth that takes place in the country, irrespective of the status of the parents, must be registered. If technology and medical conventions allow, the biometrics of children must be captured at birth. Where impossible, the biometrics of a parent must be linked to the birth certificate of a child.
  • ID numbers based on parents – The identity number of a child must be processed on the basis of biographic information and linked to their parents’ identity numbers and mother’s biometric data.
  • Re-registration – When possible, the biometrics of a child must be collected at birth. A facial photograph must be taken for manual identification when needed. Children must be reregistered when they reach age five with ten fingerprints and iris and facial photographs. A combination of different biometric data for children should be considered with options such as the photograph of the ear.
  • Recognition of other sex/gender categories – The new legislation and population register must make a provision that enables the establishment of a category that is neither male nor female. That is, a sex/gender category that caters for biological males with feminine gender identity or expression or biological females with masculine gender identity or expression in the identity system. The sex/gender category must cater for transgender people that will enable updates of sex/gender information in the population register. The DHA said that another option is to issue a random unique identity number that is not linked to or founded on a person’s sex/gender, date of birth, place of birth or any other marker.

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