Skhumbuzo Mhlongo PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 03 September 2009 11:14

South African ID document

 S'khumbuzo Douglas Mhlongo

Born: 1987, KwaZulu-Natal province.

Died: 28 August 2009, Nqetho Reserve near Hillcrest

Age: 23

Cause of death: Suicide by hanging following Home Affairs Department conduct.

Notable because: Born into poverty, without rights and unable to secure even basic documentation to support his work eligibility, through which he hoped to support his younger siblings, following a dreadful emotional assault by a South African bureaucrat who tore up what few documents he possessed, S'khumbuzo went home and ended his hopeless existence. Another name in the victim list that includes Hector Pieterson and Stompie Moeketsi of young South Africans whose deaths are the legacy of corrupt leadership. The ID suicide legacy of President Zuma's charismatic governmental approach.

Mhlongo's brother Mbongeni and sister Zandile said they had last seen him on the preceding Sunday and he seemed normal.

"He seemed in the right frame of mind and I did not think he would do anything extreme," Mbongeni said. The room where he found his brother hanging is a shack at the back of a house where he had lived poverty for several years.

His sister said the family had been abandoned by their mother several years before.
Mhlongo had been working part-time at a local pet food producer. In March he was told he would be given a full-time job, but he needed to get an identity book.

At Pinetown's home affairs offices he and a friend applied for the ID books and although his friend received his, Mhlongo kept having to go back to officials. They wanted documents from a local councillor to prove he was a South African citizen, his family claim.

They said when he took such documents, he was given the run-around, and was accused of forging the councillor's signature.
He asked a neighbour, a Mrs Mhlongo, to assist him and accompany him to Home Affairs.
The family claim staff at Pinetown told him they were not going to help him if he came with a "foreigner's mentality" and asked for a R400 bribe.

His sister said in recent months he was so overwhelmed with debt, having borrowed money from people for his living expenses and to visit Home Affairs offices, he did not want to leave his shack.

A neighbour, Clifton Vumbu, said Mhlongo had told him last week that when he had gone to Home Affairs for an interview, they had torn up his application papers and told him to go.

Speaking yesterday at a media conference, Dlamini-Zuma said "people who work in those offices, the majority of them, think they rule the world". The minister was attending a service delivery workshop at Umzimkhulu.

….. A senior delegation from the Department of Home Affairs has visited the office in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal province, where his demand was rejected.

Mr Mhlongo had been due to start the new job at a factory which manufactures bird food on Monday.
He apparently left a suicide note before hanging himself.

Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mampoepa told the BBC that Mhlongo had been raised by his mother, who disappeared in 2000, leaving him to care for his younger siblings.

He had apparently been trying to get an ID card for some time without any luck.
"He did not have parents. He was the eldest in his family and needed the ID to secure a job as he was the sole bread-winner," said Mr Mamoepa.

Mr Mamoepa told the BBC that Mhlongo had been told to bring someone who could vouch for his nationality.

"We understand he visited the office with an elderly man who shared his surname and told the official that served him that the man was his father."

The official didn't believe the young man's story, tore up Mhlongo's papers and called him a "kwere-kwere" – a derogatory

In November of 2009 his family were compensated, saying they are now ready to move on with their lives.

Mr Mhlongo's family have received a house from the government, along with their identity documents.
"It is a dream come true. Skhumbuzo would be happy," his sister Zandile told the BBC.

Two Home Affairs officials have since been fired over the incident.

The Mhlongos' new home is a three-bedroom house with electricity and running water - a first for the family who were living in run-down house in Kwa-Nqetho village in Hillcrest in Kwa-Zulu Natal. "We are very happy. It is like our lives have become brand new now. We can smile again," Ms Mhlongo told the BBC News website.

"It is sad that it happened like this but we now have IDs and a chance to get jobs. This is something Skhumbuzo always wanted," said his sister.

Mr Mhlongo had apparently been trying to get an ID card for some time without any luck and had been told to bring someone who could vouch for his nationality. In his suicide note, Mr Mhlongo explained how an official had torn up his ID application, calling him a foreigner. The case moved Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to tears. She said her department suspected that the officials who handled the matter had been looking for a bribe from Mr Mhlongo.

The minister also paid a surprise visit to the Pinetown office where the incident happened. She said she found "a lot wrong with the office" and promised that her department would visit other offices in the country to inspect their day-to-day running.

The BBC's Pumza Fihlani in Johannesburg says the Department of Home Affairs has come under heavy criticism over the years for its inefficiency in issuing ID documents, birth certificates and passports, with some people claiming to have waited up to four years.

She points out it would be even more difficult to obtain the documents if you have no parents to vouch for your identity.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma's spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa told the BBC that they were optimistic that "there will be a turn-around in the department".

Last Updated on Friday, 27 November 2009 16:56

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