Answer to a question from a reader

How can I get my ID if my parent has multiple IDs?

The short answer

Following a recent court ruling about blocked IDs, you should be able to apply for an ID the normal way. Home Affairs officials may not be aware of this, so perhaps tell them about the judgment.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

My parent has multiple ID numbers, so Home Affairs won't let me make my own ID card. I am 19 now. What can we do?

The long answer

In 2019, Home Affairs (DHA) required the following documents from a person who wanted to erase multiple IDs: an originally issued birth certificate, a clinic card or maternity certificate, copies of both parents’ IDs.

In 2012, the DHA explained to parliament that during apartheid, people who carried reference books (passes) were allocated ID numbers from a pre-printed list, without their knowledge. After apartheid, when people applied for IDs, they did not know that they had already been given ID numbers from the pre-printed list, and so the multiple or duplicate ID problem arose. 

But in December 2020, the Minister of Home Affairs told parliament that there were over 800,000 cases of blocked IDs due to multiple IDs or to duplicate IDs. 

All the ID numbers of South African citizens and permanent residents are listed in the National Population Register, which the DHA must maintain in good order. When the DHA suspected an ID of being fraudulent or there were multiple or duplicate IDs, the DHA would put a marker against this ID, indicating that it must be investigated. But as soon as this ID was marked, it would be blocked immediately, before it was investigated.

The DHA says that it must block multiple or duplicate IDs while the matter is under investigation, to protect the country against foreigners fraudulently claiming benefits due only to citizens. 

The person holding the ID would not be informed that their ID was blocked or that it was under investigation. They would simply find out when they tried to access health care, open a bank account, renew a driver’s license or apply for a social grant. They could not help their minor children (under 18 years old) to apply for an ID. They were also not given any opportunity to make representations to the DHA before the ID was blocked. It was a unilateral decision taken by DHA officials, and investigations could drag on for years while the person’s ID continued to be blocked.

Lawyers for Human Rights and Legalwise took the DHA to the High Court in January 2024, saying that this blocking of a person’s ID without informing them or giving them the opportunity to make representations was unconstitutional. Section 33 of the Constitution says that “everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable, and procedurally fair, and everyone whose rights have been adversely affected by administrative action has the right to be given written reasons.” In addition, the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) compelled Home Affairs to give persons whose IDs had been blocked written reasons for the decision and to tell them what they could do about it.

Legalwise said that even after a person had submitted all the documents required by the DHA, the DHA often failed to unblock the ID, sometimes for up to ten years.

On 16 January 2024, Judge Elmarie van der Schyff of the Gauteng High Court said that while the DHA has the right to place a marker on a suspicious ID to investigate it, it did not have the right to block the ID automatically, before any investigation, and without a court order. That was unconstitutional, and therefore the DHA’s blocking of the IDs was declared invalid. 

She said that this declaration of invalidity would be suspended for 12 months from the date of the order (16 January 2024). In these twelve months the DHA must carry out their investigations of the ID numbers which were marked before November 2022, to see if the ID number correctly reflected the person who was assigned the number, and if they did not obtain a court order to keep the ID blocked before the investigation was finalised, they had to lift the block. Read the full judgment here.

So this was a good day for the thousand of citizens whose IDs have been blocked for years.

Paula Proudlock of the Children’s Institute, which was a friend of the court, said: “The court says that Home Affairs must lift blocks from the IDs of children whose parents’ IDs are under investigation and blocked. And Home Affairs must file a report with the court within 12 weeks confirming that they have lifted the blocks.

“This part of the order should assist children aged 16 to 18 who have birth certificates but have been unable to get their IDs because their parent’s ID has been marked or blocked. Home Affairs will need to send a directive to their local offices explaining this change,” she said.

In your case, as you are no longer a child, I think you should assemble all the documents the DHA wants, like birth certificate, clinic card, school attendance records, copies of your parent’s IDs, and take them to DHA along with your own application for an ID. You need to fill in a B1-9 form in black ink for a first-time ID.

The Home Affairs staff are not always informed of the outcome of important court cases, so if they continue to say that you can’t get an ID because of your parent’s blocked ID, you could also politely ask if they are aware of the outcome of the 16 January 2024 case: that unless they are applying for a court order to keep the ID blocked, the court has ordered that the block must be lifted.

If you still find the DHA uncooperative, you could approach one of the following organisations for help:

Musina 015 534 2203

Durban: 031 301 0531

Pretoria: 012 320 2943

Johannesburg: 011 339 1960

Cape Town: 021 424 8561


Johannesburg: 011 836 9831

Cape Town: 021 481 3000

Durban: 031 301 7572

From SANews: “South Africans wishing to know whether they have duplicate IDs should check their names on the Government Gazette or SMS the letter ‘D’ followed by their ID number to 32551. They can also visit the Home Affairs website and follow the link ‘duplicate’. Some may wish to call the toll free number 0800 601190 or visit any Home Affairs offices.”

Wishing you the best,

Answered on March 27, 2024, 12:54 p.m.

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