A Nightmare at Home Affairs (not on Elm Street)

Juanita van Zyl is a friend of mine. She is a male to female transgender person in need of some (non-monetary) assistance that almost anyone of you can provide. I am publishing her story and at the end I will tell you what she needs. Please see if you can assist her. Here is Juanita’s story in her own words:

On 19 August 2015 I went to the Centurion office of Home Affairs with the hope of applying for my new ID with my name and gender change. My visit immediately turned into a nightmare after security screamed at and misgendered me when I entered the office. As I finally got past security I realised I didn’t know where to go or what to do and I asked the lady at information to assist me. She also didn’t know and I had to show her a document about the law before she took me to an official for assistance.
I told the official I was there for the name and gender change and handed him the two medical reports as required by the law. In front of the members of the public he asked me if I had fully transitioned. I told him that was what the medical reports confirmed. He asked me once again if I was female and I said yes. He left me for a moment and when he returned he asked me again if I was female. I said yes once again I was female. He then informed me that they couldn’t help me because the documents didn’t have stamps from the doctors. I informed the official that all the information was on the letterheads, but they refused to help me. I left in tears.
The story was published by News 24 (a South African news website belonging to the multinational corporation Media24) in three articles. After the first article was published, I was contacted by an official from Home Affairs. He said he would assist me. He visited my office on 24 October 2015 and we completed a document for my ID as well as gender change. I was contacted that week on Wednesday and an official said I had to go in to make all the payments. They also assisted me that day with my name change. Both officials contacted me on 28 August 2015 and told me my ID would be ready in 4 to 6 weeks.
I contacted Home Affairs 4 weeks after my application and was informed they don’t see anything on the system and I should contact them in 2 weeks time. I contacted them after two weeks again and was once again told nothing was done. They opened a case to investigate the matter, and I was told to contact them a week later.
A week later they once again said nothing was done on my ID and no one investigated my case. I took to twitter and tweeted my anger and frustration to the Minister and Home Affairs. I was asked to contact a specific person within Home Affairs for assistance. After a couple of angry emails and three days later I found out my name and gender change had been approved but that my ID application had been lost and that I therefore had to reapply.
I reapplied for my ID on 19 October 2015. Apart from dealing with a terrible cashier, the process and people were excellent. I was told by the lady who was the last to help me that I will get my ID in two weeks. I asked her unbelievingly if this was actually true. She said yes because they had a new system.
I waited a week before contacting Home Affairs. I was told my application was with the fingerprinting department. I phoned a week later and was told it was (still) with the fingerprinting department. I knew that once again they will not keep to their promise. I tweeted to the minister and Home Affairs again and I emailed the official at Home Affairs.
SmartID’s (the Department of Home Affairs’ new identity document) are processed and given out within 13 workdays. If you follow Home Affairs on twitter you will often see tweets of people receiving their ID’s within a week, sometimes two weeks. This Friday (6 November 2015) will be three weeks since I applied and I’m still waiting for feedback/answers.
I need my ID specifically because my medical aid committed them to paying my medication if my gender is officially changed. I need my ID before the end of the month otherwise I will have to pay for my medication in 2016. Not having my ID is already impacting my work because I can’t attend courses or fly to meetings because my old ID doesn’t match who I am now.
I’m starting a twitter campaign asking people to tweet to @HomeAffairsSA and use the hashtag #GiveJuaHerID in order to get them to do the right thing, give me my ID.


Back to me (Daniella) writing:

Apart from all sorts of civil liberties issues which those of you from more liberal democracies may be surprised at (fingerprinting normal citizens not even suspected, let alone accused of any crime, seriously? But anyway), there is a very real civil rights issue here. Every citizen of South Africa has the right to an identity document and Juanita has been denied this right.

Furthermore, in South Africa you need to have an Identity Document. It is a photographic proof of identity required to function in society. You need an identity document to get a job, open a bank account, get a driver’s licence, vote, get a passport, get on a plane (even for domestic flights), buy a TV, buy a car and crucially get medical aid (there is no state sponsored medical service in SA other than very basic healthcare offered to the indigent).

Juanita lacks the financial resources to get lawyers involved and in SA we lack proper transgender advocacy groups with access to human rights lawyers, legal funds and other support. We were hoping that with some strong public opinion being expressed, both from within South Africa and internationally, we may be able to get some results.

Note that this is not a legislative issue. The legislation exists and is actually quite supportive of trans people (but of course more could still be done in this regard). The issue at hand is that officials seem to be acting in a discriminatory manner and are not in fact doing what the law demands of them. We need them to do their jobs.

If you want to get involved all you need to do is tweet about this travesty. The hashtag that can be used is #GiveJuaHerID.

@HomeAffairsSA is the Twitter handle for the Department of Home Affairs and @mgigaba is the Minister of Home Affairs’ Twitter handle.

You can also tweet this image:


Jua’s story can be found here if you want to read more about her.

Please help if you can.

One Comment

Add yours →

  1. Hi All
    Thanks for your help…

    It seems like Juanita’s application moved forward a little overnight and she was contacted by an official and told it had been moved on.

    Which is great for her BUT will it make a real change for other transgender people coming after her?

    BUT she does not yet have the document. we are still waiting to see if it will arrive. The question remains why is it taking so long?
    It seems that whenever a trans person goes down this path in SA a blaze of (unwelcome) publicity is required to get anything done.

    I actually think we need to start a trans rights NGO to work for real systemic change rather than fighting the individual cases. We need to get to the point where this just happens when it needs to…

    Watch this space


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