Cape Town - Less than three months after the dozens of family dramas that played off during the December festive season, more travellers are facing a family travel dilemma because of the South African unabridged birth certificates law.
Although the Departments of Home Affairs and Tourism on 5 February this year announced their long term plan to eventually move away from travellers carrying unabridged birth certificate papers - by means of new passports which will contain all the necessary documents for minors - travellers still have to abide by the current law.
And that law requires of every child under 18 to carry unabridged birth certificates that can only be issued by the highly congested Department of Home Affairs (DHA) offices.
Even though travellers anticipate a long wait for the unabridged birth certificates and do all in their power to obtain the necessary documents needed for legal travel well ahead of the prescribed 6 - 8 week period, the DHA's backlog is threatening to ruin more family holidays this upcoming Easter.
Rochelle Joubert, a South African mother and distressed holiday-planner is one of the people who fear her family holiday may be ruined by inefficiency from the DHA.
"I have reached an end regarding the service and effectiveness of Department of Home Affairs issuing unabridged birth certificates," she tells Traveller24.
Joubert applied for the unabridged birth certificates of her two children in October last year already, five months ahead of their intended family Easter holiday to Zanzibar.
"Knowing it takes long, we started the process on 29 October 2015. Went to home affairs in Lydenburg, stood, sat and waited for our turn, filled in the forms, made the payment," she says.
After completing all the necessary documents and doing everything to a T, the Jouberts proceeded to booked their 2016 Easter holiday in good faith that the DHA will come through.
Rochelle Joubert says she followed up with phone calls to the DHA head office from 4 January 2016, on a weekly basis. "The only reply [I got was] 'sorry not processed'.
Joubert says she phoned the DHA customer care line numerous times too, but received no answer.
Traveller24 too phoned the customer care line, following up on the Jouberts' unabridged birth certificate query. An operator for the DHA told us that the Jouberts' application was only processed in November, and has "not been finalized yet".
The Jouberts fear that their holiday might be in jeopardy since they have not received any documentation one and half week before they are due to depart the country.
The DHA, however, told Traveller24 that because their query was not processed within the 6 - 8 week period, the Jouberts qualify to receive an official letter from the DHA allowing their children to travel with them, even without the unabridged birth certificates.
Such an official letter will say that the Jouberts did everything from their side to obtain the documents, and the the DHA acknowledge that they correct documentation has been received from the parents.
NOTE: If your query has not been processed 6 -8 weeks after application, you may qualify for this letter from the DHA.
To receive this letter of approval, you must:
- Revisit the office where the initial application was made
- Take along proof of travel
- Take along proof of both parents' identification (SA IDs)
What is more concerning is that the Joubert's dilemma can be seen as one of the more 'straight forward' unabridged birth certificate applications. In their case, both parents details are available, and the entire family hold South African citizenship.
Other travellers with more complicated family structures - like divorced or deceased parents, adopted children and families from various nationalities - are feeling almost completely helpless, being left over to the grace of the DHA.
Carol Ceruti emailed to Traveller24 saying, "I have been waiting for 8 months for an unabridged certificate for a child who has lost both her patents. Her aunt in Australia has offered to take her in, but she can't leave the country without the unabridged certificate or even apply for custody of the child without it."
Traveller24 attempted to contact the Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete on several platforms regarding the backlog at the DHA, but is yet to receive a response.
- Traveller24 - Louzel Lombard