One ‘i’ puts her life on hold

2011-04-06 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG-born woman’s life is in limbo in Italy as a result of a mistake that the local Home Affairs Department made on her identity documents about three years ago.

Lilian Celia Walden (47), who has been living in Italy for the past 20 years, said as a result of the misspelling of her second name in her South African ID, birth certificate and passport, the Italian government has confiscated her documents. Her bank accounts were also allegedly frozen as she was suspected of being a fraudster.

Talking to The Witness from Chiavari, Italy, where she now lives and works, Walden said in her documents her second name is misspelt as Ceila. She said this happened when she applied for a copy of her birth certificate in 2008.

“I did not pay much attention to this until I tried to apply for Italian citizenship. The Italian government rejected my application because my unabridged birth certificate has my second name spelt wrong.

“The authorities then confiscated my documents,” said Walden.

Her mother, Maureen Walden (72), who has been trying to help her, said her daughter lost her previous documents during a burglary at her Italian house.

“This has frustrated my daughter so much. I wonder how she survives in Italy with her frozen bank account. This is also putting her employment at risk. She cannot continue to live in Italy if she is not employed,” said Maureen.

Maureen said she and her daughter have been treated badly by officials at the Home Affairs office in Pietermaritzburg.

“At one point we went there in the early hours of the morning to be front in the queue. We were number two, but at 11 am we were still waiting to be helped. I phoned my daughter-in- law-to-be, who phoned a supervisor in that office. The supervisor came and helped us, but the documents came back with the same mistake.

“We have been to those offices about 10 times. Those people cannot get the work done,” said Maureen.

Maureen said her daughter relocated to Italy because she liked life in that country.

“There she has a good job with a good salary. She now wants to have Italian citizenship and she has been living there long enough to qualify,” she said.

When contacted about the matter, Home Affairs spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa just said “refer that person to Thomas Sigama who is going to help her” before he hung up.

Sigama, who is director of marriage and birth certificates at Home Affairs, said Walden’s problem should be referred to Lerato Afilaka, who is the director of the ID section.

Afilaka promised to help Walden to rectify the mistake. She said she will be able to attend to the case today.

“She must give me her ID number, the date on which she applied for the documents and proof of application,” she said.

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