Draft Bill On Identification Numbers

By Jessie Taylor 

A new piece of legislation is set to increase security around South Africa’s identification processes, while making identification numbers more inclusive. The National Identification Registration Bill will allow the Department of Home Affairs to clamp down on identity fraud, including fraudulently manufacturing ID documents, but it will also aim to create identity numbers that include the LQTBQI++ community.

Creating Better Identification Systems

According to Minster Motsoaledi, the legislation aims to facilitate the registration of identity information of all citizens, persons residing in the Republic temporarily or permanently, and provide a primary source for the verification and authentication of identity information. In February, Cabinet approved the National Identification and Registration Bill of 2022 for public comments.

Minister in the Presidency Hon. Mondli Gungubele said the Bill would also allow for the compilation and maintenance of a population register for citizens and permanent residents. “It further provides for the creation of an identification database for certain foreigners who sojourn temporarily in the country. It also provides for a biometric National Identity System (NIS) that will enable a single view of a person by providing for particulars to be included in the population register and the identification database. The NIS will also be able to interface with other government and private sector identity systems,” he said.

The NIS will also be linked to the Movement Control System and other immigration systems. The register and database will contain a person’s name, date and place of birth, gender, citizenship, ID number, recent photograph and fingerprints. It will also contain marital status, particulars of passports and travel documents, among others.

This register may not be amended unless authorised by the director-general of the home affairs department and will see an identification number issued for every citizen and permanent resident whose particulars are included. Minister Motsoaledi added that, under the new law, a reference number would be assigned to foreigners, and that number would not be reallocated or reused by any other person.

The new Bill will allow for a number of changes to the country’s identification processes, including lower the age at which identity documents are issued. It will allow South African citizens to get their IDs at the age of 10 instead of the current age of 16. Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the change would allow police and other organisation broader access to biometric data, which could be useful in identifying children who have died at a crime scene, for example. He added that it would also make it impossible to sell fake birth certificates of children who have passed away.

Inclusive Identification

Minister Motsoaledi said the new Bill aims to ensure universal registration of all vital events, including but not limited to births, marriages and deaths. It will also empower the director-general to issue a gender-neutral identity number for non-binary persons and criminalise burying a dead person without registering death. To date, South African ID numbers have indicated gender as either male or female. The new bill will aim to better reflect non-binary, intersex and trans citizens.

The Bill will impose strict penalties for those convicted of identity fraud, either by producing false documents or having them. It proposes fines of up to R100 000 or a sentence of up to 10 years for those who unlawfully manufacture, produce, print and distribute documents purporting to be national identification cards. Those possessing fake ID documents will be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding three months.

The Bill gives effect to the Official Identity Management Policy and “seeks to provide a single, inclusive and integrated digital national identification system for all people who live or have lived in the country”, Minister Gungubele said. The policy was approved by Cabinet last year and will replace the Identification Act of 1997. It seeks to do away with the unreliable lengthy manual paper-based processes designed in the 1980s, on which the current National Population Register depends.

Currently, changes to identity and status made in immigration systems are only partially reflected in the NPR. According to the draft, the interfaces between systems would ensure data is accurate and continually updated in real-time. The new system proposes that every birth in the country, irrespective of the status of the parents, must be registered. It also aims to link the biometrics of the parent to the child’s birth certificate.

Sources: Cape Times | IT Web | eNCA | SA Government | Business Tech | The Mercury