'Dead' woman calls News24: 'Please tell Home Affairs I'm alive'

2019-05-17 06:04
People wait at the Department of Home Affairs. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

People wait at the Department of Home Affairs. (Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

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A "dead" woman who rang News24's offices, says she is happy to report that she is alive and well, despite Home Affairs insisting otherwise.

Kubashnee Kalicharan (née Govender), 37, from Johannesburg, was told she was "deceased" when she applied for a loan last year.

Since then, her life has come to a complete standstill, as she is officially not alive.

Her namesake, Kubashnee Govender from Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, died from kidney failure about three years ago. 

Kalicharan is originally from Durban, in the same province. 

Through some administrative blunder, the two women shared the same ID number, resulting in Home Affairs declaring Kalicharan dead when Govender died.

Since then, Kalicharan and her husband, who are married in community of property, can't buy a house or car. She could also not vote in the elections on May 8.

"I am actually using a company car to get around because I can't get vehicle finance." 

Kalicharan went to Home Affairs in Alberton the day after discovering the department's bungle.

"I took my ID book with me, but the official there told me I showed up as deceased on the system. So I asked him, how can this be? I am right here - I've used this ID number my whole life."

She was then given documentation pertaining to her "death certificate".

It became clearer that another person, Govender, had died and had the same ID number as hers.

Undertakers refused to release remains

In fact, when Govender died, her family had great difficulty getting the undertakers to release her body for burial, as they wanted her husband to consent to it.

She was, however, not married; instead, it is Kalicharan who is married.

According to Govender's brother, Clinton Naidu, his sister had, when she was still alive, received bills in the mail that were addressed to her, but were meant for Kalicharan.

"Every time this happened we had to go to a police station and get an affidavit to say my sister does not have this account, it's somebody else's," he told News24. 

"Unfortunately my sister passed on of renal failure in 2016. The undertakers arranged for the death certificate and when we got it, it had been issued for Kubashnee Kalicharan.

"So for about two months after my sister's death, I had been running up and down to Home Affairs who told me it was 'impossible' for an ID number to be duplicated."

READ: 'Dead' Pretoria woman 'alive' again after Home Affairs bungle, but husband still a 'widower'

Naidu says he received a call from Kalicharan about six months after his sister had died, telling him that she was now considered deceased and that she had the same ID number as his sister's. 

Kalicharan had found his name and number on documents she had been given by Home Affairs. 

Naidu was then able to supply Kalicharan with Govender's documentation to pursue her ongoing attempts to convince Home Affairs that she was, in fact, still alive.

Naidu describes his interactions with the department as a "nightmare".

"I was spending money getting documents, spending money getting this, spending money getting that… it was quite a schlep."

Kalicharan then took the documents Naidu had sent her, as well as her own ID book, an affidavit stating that the ID number was hers, affidavits from her brother and sister (her parents are deceased), copies of her family's ID documents, even her clinic card that was issued when she was born, a letter from her employer and submitted these to the Germiston Home Affairs office. 

'I have to beg for assistance'

"I handed all these documents to them at around October last year. After I handed in the documents I had to pester that official because she would not take my calls. I had to beg her for assistance. I even did new fingerprints. 

"She then told me the documents would go to head office in Pretoria for investigation and validation. The documents were eventually sent to Pretoria in January this year. I received an SMS stating that the documents had been received. And that was the last I heard from Home Affairs."

News24 has seen countless emails from Kalicharan, addressed to various Home Affairs officials, including senior officials such as the minister and director-general which she copied in, pleading for the matter to be resolved. She is yet to receive a definitive response. 

Despite her frustration, Kalicharan consistently maintains a polite tone in her correspondence. 

"Good morning, trust you are well. Please assist me as this case is still not solved. My life is currently on hold because of this. I don't understand why this is taking so long to get resolved. Your assistance in this regard will be much appreciated," she typically writes. 

"I call them every Monday without fail. All they need to do is validate my fingerprints by matching it with [Govender's]. But every time they just tell me they're working on it."

At the beginning of April, she finally received a response to her emails from one C Khumalo, stating: "Thank you for writing to the Department of Home Affairs Contact Centre. Please note that the application is still not finalised. The case has been escalated to the processing unit and we are still waiting for feedback. We will send a note of urgency to try and expedite the application."

'I can still pay taxes'

In the meantime, Kalicharan is still not officially alive. 

"My whole life is at a standstill," Kalicharan told News24. "I couldn't buy a car because my application was declined. The dealership said, according to the system, I am dead.

"I'm lucky that my bank account has not yet been frozen," she says.

"I couldn't vote, but I can still pay taxes." 

Earlier this month, News24 reported on Renthia van Rensburg from Onderstepoort near Pretoria finally being declared "alive" following a nearly two-year battle with Home Affairs, who had her on record as being dead.

News24 attempted to contact Home Affairs for comment.

Department spokesperson Thabo Mokgola referred News24 to his colleague David Hlabane, as he was on leave. Calls to Hlabane went unanswered. 

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