Limpopo man gets the correct gender on his birth certificate after a two-decade wait
It took reports in Daily Maverick and community media to get Home Affairs officials to do their job and finally end a 21-year-old’s years of anguish and bullying.
Experience Chavalala, a 21-year-old Limpopo man from Nkuri village outside Giyani, held in his hand a birth certificate with his correct gender designation for the first time this month.
For two decades the Department of Home Affairs had failed to correct an obvious error and change his official gender from female to male.
Chavalala said the long-running saga had cost him and his family a fortune as, over many years, he has had to pay for transport from Siandane and Nkuri villages into town to the Home Affairs offices to argue his case.
The ordeal has also drained him emotionally and psychologically. When he was growing up, peers constantly mocked him, saying he was a girl.
Then he found himself unable to register for tertiary education because of the administrative foul-up – despite matriculating without questions being asked about his identity document.
On Thursday, 16 March 2023, the government department finally issued him a birth certificate showing his correct gender identity. Chavalala said this had only happened after community media and Daily Maverick publicised his plight and asked questions of the department about its inability to fix the error for 21 years.
His mother is a general worker at the government’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) while his father is unemployed.
From Nkuri, he paid R68 in taxi fare every time he travelled to Giyani to plead with government officials. “The other days, I will be travelling from my original birthplace village of Siandane, where the taxi fare is R50. It was not easy to get that money,” said Chavalala.
After Daily Maverick published a report about his problem early in February, he made three more trips to the Home Affairs offices, attempting to get a new certificate.
“During the first trip, on 3 March, I went to the offices after officials requested that I apply again. But, to my surprise, still on that day, the system rejected me saying I am a female South African.
“I went back home disappointed again,” said Chavalala.
When he went back on 15 March, the system was offline, but on 16 March he was finally handed a corrected birth certificate – and officially became a male person.
The first thing he did was ask the Department of Education to issue him with a new matric certificate with his correct gender; the previous one having him down as a female matriculant.
A clinical psychologist in Polokwane, Mudzunga Mathivha, said the ordeal Chavalala went through must have been psychologically draining.
“He also experienced bullying … and that can lead to less confidence, poor self image, poor self esteem and self doubt.”
Mathivha said such errors could predispose young people to mental problems such as depression and even suicidal ideas, or excessive anger and substance abuse.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Frustrated’ man in hostage drama at Home Affairs office in Limpopo
Daily Maverick came across Chavalala’s plight when reporting on a hostage drama at Home Affairs offices in Limpopo last month. On that occasion, police said a 26-year-old man, Amukelani Baloyi, allegedly took hostage four Home Affairs officials and a female security officer, using a toy gun.
Baloyi had become frustrated after waiting for a birth certificate since 2018, according to Home Affairs Vhembe district manager Zamba Maluleke, who added that Baloyi had been arrested and charged, and was released on bail pending another court appearance on 5 April.
Maluleke said the certificate was not issued because Baloyi’s application was held up pending DNA tests to verify he was South African. The man did not know the whereabouts of his mother and was told to bring a close family member for a DNA test to be conducted, but this had not happened.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Hell Affairs — a South African was stuck in limbo for four years trying to prove her identity and citizenship
Home Affairs provincial manager in Limpopo, Thifhelimbilu Matshaya, said he appreciated the role the media played in publicising Chavalala’s story.
“Sometimes our people don’t understand the impact of our actions. Thanks to you guys,” said Matshaya in a text message to Daily Maverick. DM