SA suspends ID suicide officials
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.
The minister also paid a surprise visit to the Pinetown office where the incident happened.
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.
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.
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.