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Friday, September 4, 2009

SOUTH AFRICA suspends ID suicide officials

South African ID document
It is difficult to obtain documents if no parent can vouch for your identity

Two South African officials have been suspended in connection with the suicide of Skhumbuzo Mhlongo.

The 22 year old committed suicide after being refused the identity documents he needed to start a job on Monday.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the suspensions at the man's funeral, where she was addressing mourners.

The minister broke down in tears before journalists earlier this week when she was telling them about the case.

In his suicide note, Mr Mhlongo explained how an official had torn up his ID application, calling him a foreigner.

The minister said she suspected an official had expected a bribe.

Disciplinary hearing

Ms Dlamini-Zuma's spokesperson told the BBC that she wants the matter "to be resolved as soon as possible".


"The officials have been suspended with immediate effect," Ronnie Mamoepa said.

"They will be appearing before a disciplinary hearing soon," he told the BBC.

Mrs Dlamini-Zuma said South Africans had the right to high quality service and should not be driven to such drastic acts to make their voices heard.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says the Department of Home Affairs has come under heavy criticism over the years for its inefficiency in issuing ID documents, birth certificates and passports, with some people claiming to have waited up to four years.

She points out it would be even more difficult to obtain the documents if you have no parents to vouch for your identity.

In response to the case, the Department of Home Affairs has set up a hotline for people to register complaints about its civil servants: 0800-2044-76.

The line, which did not work when the BBC tried it on Monday, is now accepting calls.

Sibling carer

Mr Mhlongo, who was buried in Hillcrest near Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, had been due to start the new job at a factory which manufactures bird food on Monday.

Mr Mamoepa said the Department of Social Development assisted the family with the burial arrangements.

Mr Mhlongo had been raised by his mother, who disappeared in 2000, leaving him to care for his younger siblings.

He had apparently been trying to get an ID card for some time without any luck and had been told to bring someone who could vouch for his nationality.

But the official did not believe that the man he brought along was his father, tore up Mr Mhlongo's papers and called him a "kwere-kwere" - a derogatory term used for foreign nationals.

He apparently left the suicide note before hanging himself.


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