Languages
Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 16:50 UK

SA suspends ID suicide officials

South African ID document
It is difficult to obtain documents if no parent can vouch for your identity

Two South African officials have been suspended in connection with the suicide of Skhumbuzo Mhlongo.

The 22 year old committed suicide after being refused the identity documents he needed to start a job on Monday.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced the suspensions at the man's funeral.

"We cannot lose a life because of public servants who have forgotten that they are there to help the public and not there to act like kings," she said.

The minister broke down in tears before journalists earlier this week when she was telling them about the case.

If someone after coming from a Home Affairs office says he has lost hope to a point of ending his life, that cannot be acceptable it cannot be right and it cannot continue
Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

In his suicide note, Mr Mhlongo explained how an official had torn up his ID application, calling him a foreigner.

Ms Dlamini-Zuma said her department was there to help make people's lives easier and not drive them to despair.

"If someone after coming from a Home Affairs office says he has lost hope to a point of ending his life, that cannot be acceptable it cannot be right and it cannot continue," she said.

Spot inspections

The minister also paid a surprise visit to the Pinetown office where the incident happened.

Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma  (File photo)
The case moved Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to tears

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 incident has prompted the Department of Home Affairs to set up a new telephone hotline for people to register complaints about civil servants.

The minister urged the public to use it and make their voices heard.

Her spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the suspended officials will soon be appearing before a disciplinary hearing.

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.

Sibling carer

Mr Mhlongo, who was buried in Hillcrest near Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal Province, had been due to start the new job at a factory which manufactures bird food on Monday.

map

Mr Mamoepa said the Department of Social Development assisted the family with the burial arrangements.

Mr 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 and had been told to bring someone who could vouch for his nationality.

But the official did not believe that the man he brought along was his father, tore up Mr Mhlongo's papers and called him a "kwere-kwere" - a derogatory term used for foreign nationals.

He apparently left the suicide note before hanging himself.



Print Sponsor


RELATED BBC LINKS

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific