Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi says that his department will propose new legislation to make it possible for people as young as 10 to get an ID card in South Africa.

This is one of the measures he wants to implement to strengthen passport security in the country.

Speaking at a National Council of Provinces on Thursday (25 August), the minister said that Home Affairs wants more stringent border security and additional requirements for receiving important identification and travel documents in the country.

One of the mechanisms to manage fraud is to have more people on Home Affairs database, he said.

To achieve this, the minister said the department will propose new legislation to make it possible for people to get an ID at the age of 10 rather than wait until the age of 16.

The minister lamented that South Africa’s passport security has become a ‘laughing stock’, with several high-profile incidents involving fraudulent documents coming to light.

Motsoaeledi said that the country’s passport was once respected globally. However, the security of the passport is under doubt, and ‘people laugh and make jokes’ when they see how the processes have been circumvented.

The minister noted instances of fraudulent documents being found in the possession of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Benin nationals, which has devalued the document internationally.

As part of the department’s fight against fraud, the minister said that Home Affairs is shifting the mechanics of the document to an Automatic Biometric Information System (ABIS), which will extend the current system to take into account a person’s fingerprint, photo, palm print, facial recognition as well as iris scans.

Earlier in August, Motsoaledi announced that further security measures were being implemented to protect the security of the passport.

The first of these measures is the end of transferrable and third-party collections and a new activation process that can only be completed by the applicant.

Motsoaledi said that passport applications currently allow for the document to be collected at any office in the country if applicants request that it be transferred. It also allows for the passport to be collected by a third party.

The government allowed for this because “people are in a hurry”, especially in business, Motsoaledi said. “There is not always time, so third parties were allowed,” he said. “Unfortunately, this privilege has been taken away,” the minister said.

New rules:

  • A passport can only be collected from the office it was applied for. You will be forced to go back to the same office to collect it.
  • Only the person who applied for the passport can collect it.
  • Passports will be activated by a fingerprint – which will be compared to a photo. Upon collection, everything has to be matched up to the data in the national identity database.
  • For minors, only parents or legal guardians can apply and collect these using the same methods.

Motsoaledi said that this new process is the same method being used for Smart ID cards.

The biometrics (fingerprint) of a South African and their own photo were previously used by foreign nationals with fake passports to get beyond security checks, he said.

“On the day that you come in to collect the passport, you must provide your fingerprint, and the department will look at your face then issue your passport – everything must correspond,” said Motsoaledi.

“This will definitely cause problems for travellers, but that is a price South Africans must pay because we want it – the passport – to be respected once more.”

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