Staying Home with Home Affairs

2015-05-26 12:51

If I were one who updated his Facebook status, I would write, “Howard Feldman is feeling proud”. Proud because South Africa, from June, will be on the front lines in the global fight against child-trafficking. It’s method’s are crafty and not to be underestimated. Because from June, it will basically be impossible for any child person under the age of seventeen to leave or enter the country. Unless he is armed with a suitcase full of documents that Home Affairs will never be able to provide.

Of course, given the porous nature of our borders (other than the ones at O.R Thambo) where pretty much armed only with a sturdy pair of shoes and inflated water wings, one can enter and exit as many times as one desires, the new laws do seem to be, well a bit ambitious. Add to the fact that as well intentioned as the new requirements might be, without an efficient Home Affairs Department to pump out the required documents at lightening speed, there is little possibility of this whole unfortunate decision ending in tears.

I have a son who is teetering dangerously on the edge of turning seventeen. The application for his ID Book was done almost a year before this event so as to allow us ample time before we need to apply for his Learner’s License. Nine months later and around 20 calls to Home Affairs we have achieved nothing other than an admission that the application seems to be “Missing in Action.” To put that in perspective, in the same nine months, my wife and I could have made a whole new baby person, fully functional, with all working appendages. In that time all Home Affairs has been able to do is to tell us that they moved offices, that something got lost and that, well they are sorry (but don’t really mean it). That’s pretty dismal and more than a little scary as this is the same department that is about to hold the entire travel industry to ransom.

The document required for a traveling couple with children is an unabridged Birth Certificate. Which is lovely if you have one. The documents require for a single parents traveling with a child is the birth certificate (unabridged) and a signed Affidavit that has been notarized by a notary. For happily married parents this is an irritation and one that will no doubt cause some frustration in the marriage (because I know I would leave it to the last minute, much to my wife’s annoyance). But for a single parent where the separation might not be amicable, or the other partner unknown or deceased, this requirement can present tremendous difficulty and pain. And, its not a once off document, as it has to be fresher than 4 months, or apparently it will go bad, like cheese and yoghurt. And no one wants that.

The requirement to have it notarized is particularly shrewd. This cunning move will no doubt eliminate scores of child traffickers as the on duty policeman at any of our police stations will no doubt scour the documents before stamping the “ Notarized” stamp that he protects along with his shield and weapon. It would seem that in their wisdom, our Minister Gigaba has left no stone unturned.

Of course we can say goodbye to a multitude of tourists coming to South Africa. With the red tape now required and the confusion that will follow, it will be little wonder if anyone dares to test to the system, when the consequence is leaving a disappointed 6 year old at home simply because his Birth Certificate that was in French but now translated was abridged. And if it wasn’t, then perhaps a Gendarme didn’t notarize it. Simply put, Somalia now seems easier to get to.

Of course we want to eliminate child trafficking. Of course no one wants anyone to steal our children. And of course, if our borders were actually secure and if we had an efficient Home Affairs and if it wasn’t so confusing all this would be a lovely idea. But they aren’t and we don’t and it is. And one doesn’t need to be particularly prophetic to know what is going to follow, and there is simply not chance that its going to be pretty.

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