Minister in tears at funeral

2009-09-03 14:49

Durban - Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma burst into tears when she heard the contents of the suicide note left by a KwaZulu-Natal man who hanged himself after failing to get an ID document.

"What makes me unhappy about this is that my department is supposed to make lives easier for people," said Dlamini-Zuma during Sikhumbuzo Mhlongo’s funeral in Nqetho outside Hillcrest on Thursday.

Mhlongo hanged himself last week.

In a letter, he explained that a Pinetown home affairs official tore up his application for an identity document, effectively preventing him from getting a job.

According to the suicide note read during the funeral service, Mhlongo was informed by home affairs officials in Pinetown that he could not get an ID because he was not accompanied by his parents when he made the application.

His parents died when he was still young.

'I prefer to die than go to jail'

"I have persevered too long. I have lost my job because my ID application was turned down. It hurts to see my friends going to work," Mhlongo wrote in the suicide note.

The note also stated that Mhlongo had decided to hang himself because he did not want to become a criminal as he could not get a job without an ID.

"I don’t want to steal. I prefer to die than to go to jail."

Dlamini-Zuma said Mhlongo’s death was to be a turning point for her department, which she said needed a clean-up.

"There are so many young people who steal and kill but Mhlongo decided not to do it. This shows that we still have good young people out there who do not steal even if they struggle in life," she said.

Dlamini-Zuma vowed to make sure that no one else would commit suicide because of the problems they encountered when applying for IDs.

"We want to assure the people of South Africa that things will be sorted out in our department and we will start at the Pinetown office."

Two suspended

She said two people suspected of having ill treated Mhlongo had been suspended at the Home Affairs Pinetown office.

Former home affairs minister and Inkatha Freedom party leader Mangosuthu Buthulezi and the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Social Development Meshack Hadebe were among those who attended the funeral service, held in a small sports ground.

Buthelezi did not speak during the event.

Hadebe said he was saddened that Mhlongo’s relatives had allegedly received threats from home affairs officials from the Pinetown office who demanded to know who had accompanied the deceased when he made an ID application.

He said a case of intimidation had been opened.

It was announced during the funeral that Mhlongo’s sisters would get a house from government. The orphans had been renting a house in Nqetho.