Five-year ID blocking ordeal ends for Gumede family after Daily Maverick exposé
The Gumedes’ long battle to unblock their IDs are a symptom of the bureaucratic and systemic issues plaguing the Department of Home Affairs, say lawyers.
A five-year ordeal over blocked identity documents has ended in tears of joy for Thulisile Gumede after a Daily Maverick exposé.
Thulisile Gumede had contacted Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) and later Daily Maverick to try to resolve the issue, which first saw her ID blocked, along with those of her three sons – Lungani, Luthando and Methembe. Her ID was unblocked in 2022 but the department had kept a hold on her sons’ IDs – until Wednesday.
“I’m a free woman now. My son [Lungani] is going to Home Affairs to apply for his ID. What a great moment for him just to have an ID. He is looking forward to having an ID because his life was stuck. It was stuck,” she said.
Gumede spent four years trying to get her own ID unblocked after discovering in 2017 that Home Affairs had put a marker on it on their system. She was not provided with a reason for this, but had to endure a lengthy process to unblock her document. This included travelling from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal to obtain affidavits from family and former teachers to prove she was a South African.
She also had to conduct and pay for DNA tests for her and her mother. Gumede said she lost a lot of time and money in the process, and was unable to buy a home or get a new car despite working as a teacher.
Her eldest son, who is now 23 years old, was unable to apply for a driver’s licence and find work. While he managed to study, the ID problem haunted him from exam to exam.
“I look crazy sometimes when I tell people I don’t have an ID. It’s like I am not a citizen,” he said previously. Lungani visited Home Affairs on Wednesday and is hoping to soon hold his ID in his hands. A tearful Gumede said she was elated.
“I am so happy. It felt like I was dead. I was nothing, I was useless in my life. I’m not crying because I’m sad, I’m crying because I’m happy. I’m crying because I see light that is coming towards my boys,” she said.
Thandeka Chauke, who heads the LHR’s Statelessness Project, said she was relieved to hear the family’s ordeal was finally over. The centre had taken on their case, along with more than 100 other people with blocked IDs.
“The fact that they were stuck in limbo for five years, unable to access basic services and opportunities, is a testament to the bureaucratic and systemic issues that continue to plague the Department of Home Affairs. There is a need for continued attention to the ID blocking issue, because there are many more South Africans who have been stripped of their citizenship and their human rights through arbitrary and opaque decision-making processes,” she said.
The LHR has joined a case in the high court in Pretoria in which the department’s ID blocking process is being challenged, calling for an overhaul of the process. DM