ID, Please!

Greetings again from South Africa!  Just a few things to update you on.

The saga of getting a national ID for Mthandazo (Thembo) continues.  A couple of weeks ago, he finally found out why nothing has come of the application he made last May.  Apparently, the birthdate he submitted was only six months after his older brother, Bongani’s.  So, given that they stated having the same mother, this was a problem.  It’s quite common for people, especially older people, to not have a clue of their birthdate.  It’s less common among people Mthandazo’s age but still an issue.  How he and his older brother ended up with birthdates so close to each other, I don’t know.

So, this meant that Mthandazo had to go back and get some new documents with a new birthdate.  What, from a Canadian perspective, was kind of strange was that the Home Affairs department of the government just basically told him to pick a new birthdate.  But then again, what options does the kid have?  His brother already has his ID so it’s easiest for Mthandazo to just find a new birthday.  The government gets criticized a lot here for their inefficiency and corruption, which they deserve.  At the same time, you can see the challenge in trying to do things like a census or ID registration.  I read recently where India is trying to register and ID all of their citizens.  I can’t imagine being tasked with that!  Over a billion people with probably the same challenges as here in Africa!  Eish!!

Anyway, Mthandazo got his new documents as was ready to head back to Home Affairs.  He had to bring his mother, who lives in a different community,  and really wanted me to take them.  I wasn’t well enough to go, so through the Care Center in his community, we provided transport money.  Well, one day his Mom showed up but forgot one of the documents he needed.  They planned to try again this past Tuesday but his Mom didn’t show up at all.  This probably makes her look like less than a stellar parent but there’s more to things than that.  She is what I’d describe as a “very village” person.  By, this I mean that she has lived most of her life within 40 or 50 kms of Nelspruit, where the government offices are, and has only been there a handful of times.  Frankly, I think she’s scared of being in the city and after I tell you about our experience at Home Affairs this Thursday, I think you’ll see why.

For the past month, the government has put a focus on processing IDs so that people can vote in the municipal elections that are coming up in the next few weeks.  People were advised to apply by the end of March, which was this past Thursday.  After his Mom didn’t show on Tuesday, Mthandazo was really, really worried that he wasn’t going to get his ID, therefore not be able to sit his Gr. 12 exams, therefore not be able to apply for college, therefore… you get the picture.

So, on Wednesday I decided that somebody here at Hands at Work had to take them.  The problem is that getting to where Mthandazo lives and then where his Mom is staying is not so simple as firing up a Google map or saying, “turn left at the Mac’s, then right on Woodfordshire Crescent”.  There are no street signs and many people live in places that, at some point,  you can only reach by foot.  So, my colleague Dan from the UK agreed to drive but I was the only possible person who knew where to find them.  So, packing a pillow and lying in the backseat of Dan’s Mitsubishi SUV, away we went.

We picked up Mthandazo, then his Mom, and made our way to Home Affairs in Nelspruit.  We got there at about 9:45 am and were treated to a line up that went out the building and around the block.  These were just the people waiting to get into the building, not the ones waiting in Home Affairs.  It was chaos.  People trying to skip the queue, to talk their way in with the security guards.  So, to make a long story short, we were there all day.  I hung out in the backseat for a few hours and then Dan and I talked our way into Home Affairs.  Mthandazo was in line for his fingerprints, already for about two hours.  This was at 2:00.  By 5:00, he finally got his prints done.  Then he had to go to another floor for an interview with him and his Mom (that’s why she had to be there).  The tragic thing is, at 6:30 they told him they were closing and he head to go home.  The poor kid and his Mom!  They looked disappointed to say the least.  In any case Dan and his wife have to go to Home Affairs on Monday for their own visas so they’re going to take him and his Mom.  Anyway, please say a prayer for them that things will go smoothly on Monday.

I surprisingly didn’t feel too bad being out that whole day.  Just really tired.  As long as I was sitting, I didn’t feel bad at all.  I still can’t stand for very long and any activity, like washing the dishes or having a shower, requires a nice lie down after.  I don’t feel like I’ve made too much progress but I’m definitely not feeling worse.

Unfortunately, Zambia is now out of the question.  But really, I’m just hoping to feel better so I’m back on my feet.

Well, that’s about all for now.

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One Response to ID, Please!

  1. Ben Mac says:

    Hey Chris,….
    long time no chat,….I have just finished my last formal classes as of Thursday last week. Yahoo,…so I was able to jump back to your blog. Wow,..what interesting stories. I do hope you start getting your energy back. Good for you for doing such great work. Awesome to be able to be a part of your experience, even if it is through a website. I can feel the emotion in your writing. This last story gives us westerners a new perspective when it comes to our gov’t agencies. We really don’t get how fortunate we are to be living in the land of the milk and honey,…..We have so much to be grateful for. I will be taking your stories back to my school and using them to engage my kids. This blog is a great idea. Way to go Chris! Keep your stories coming,…love reading about them and especially how they cause me to stop and appreciate.

    Take care Ben

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