Birth certificates for undocumented minors

Birth certificates for undocumented minors

Lesley Blake studied at
Wits University and was
admitted as an attorney
in 1995. Her practice
consists of service to the
SMME market – general
legal advice, collections,
drafting agreements and
general litigation. The
practice is also slanted
towards Family Law
including access and
maintenance disputes.

Lesley Blake studied at Wits University and was admitted as an attorney in 1995. Her practice consists of service to the SMME market – general legal advice, collections, drafting agreements and general litigation. The practice is also slanted towards Family Law including access and maintenance disputes.

The Department of Home Affairs appears to have a policy (unrelated to any law that I can find) that they will only issue a Birth Certificate in the following circumstances:

  1. To a woman who is the mother of the child, personally appearing to bring that application;
  2. Where there is documentary evidence of the birth of the child in a South African hospital or medical facility;
  3. Where she has registered the birth within seven days.

In any circumstances apart from the above, all of us as role-players in the social welfare and legal environments have had endless difficulty in getting a birth certificate issued.

Where there is a biological unmarried father of the child, Home Affairs requires that he have a genetic test to prove his fatherhood. If so established, there are some instances where they issue the birth certificate to him, particularly when Home Affairs already have him as the father on their system or where the Children’s Court forces them to do so. Of course, the law is that both parents have parenting rights and there is no real reason in law why a birth certificate could not simply be given to a father. Nevertheless, it is likely one would need a court order to force them to do so.

In cases where the other aspect is not satisfied – for example when the mother is missing or the mother does not have documentary evidence of the birth, or where the birth was not timeously registered, there would be room to bring an application to force Home Affairs to issue a birth certificate. In each such application one would need to establish to the satisfaction of the Court that:

  1. The child is a South African – whether by birth or descent. Thus, place facts before the Court on affidavit about who the parents are and the place of birth of the child;
  2. There is good cause why the mother cannot appear to apply for the certificate;
  3. The person/s applying for the birth certificate have parental rights and responsibilities or ought to have them or are entitled to the issuing of the certificate. So even where the applicant is the aunt or a children’s home or a social worker, that person should be entitled to get the birth certificate and have a purpose for it.

As a final point, the application should be brought by way of a Notice of Motion and a Founding
Affidavit. Remember that it is very easy to lose an application by asking for more urgency than the
circumstances justify. Take your time and win the first time.


Click here for our complete April 2020 Newsletter

We thank the legal profession for their pro bono contribution

We thank the legal profession for their pro bono contribution

On 21 November 2019 we held an award ceremony at Constitution Hill to pay tribute to the many legal practitioners and others who made an exceptional contribution to pro bono work in 2018.

Our guest speaker was Judge Jody Kollapen, who pointed out that access to justice is far from the experience of far too many people in the country. “How can the scales of justice be balanced if the judge only hears one side of the story? Legal representation is essential”, he said. “Pro bono services make rights real for those living in poverty.”


These were the award winners:

Family Law – Joseph Sithole, Ceri Von Ludwig Attorneys
Labour Law – Manager Gumbo, K M Legal Consultants
Wills – Liesl Williams, Norton Rose Fulbright SA
Community Advice Office – Sibongile Advice Office (Zola), Represented by Thandekile Mkhize
Large Law Firm – Bowmans (Fatima Laher)
Medium Law Firm – Clarks Attorneys (Sithembiso Mabaso)
Small Law Firm – Sumadhi Naidoo Attorneys (Sue Naidoo)
Refugees – Dakalo Singo, Werksmans
Children – Suné Bosch and Jonathan Small, Ramsden Small Attorneys, Vera Kruger, Abrahams & Gross
Housing – Naledi Motsiri and Dakalo Singo, Werksmans
Estates – Corncelia Chauke, Sonkosi & Ngalonkulu Inc.
Conveyancing – Chrysi Kripotos, Chrissi Kripotos Attorneys (for Johannesburg) Illse Nieuwoudt (for Pretoria)
Outstanding student at a university law clinic – Jarrod van der Heever, University of Pretoria Law Clinic
Advocate Award – Basil Joseph, Thulamela Group


There were also a number of Special Mentions:

Susan Harris, Harris-Morgan Attorneys and Nikola Daniels were mentioned for working as a team on a long Germiston Children’s Court case going back to 2017
Dawn Grabe, Grabe Attorneys for attending at the Johannesburg Deeds Office every Tuesday and drafting wills
Charl Albasini, Albasini Attorneys received a special mention for two children’s cases he has been running over a period of two years
MVC Inc. represented by Marinus Labuschagne for taking on family law cases and staffing the Domestic Violence Help Desk
Rita Ozoemena, Grayston Chambers was mentioned for volunteering many hours to staffing the Refugee and Labour Law clinics as well as the Master’s Help Desk
Congratulations to all the winners and a special thanks to our sponsors, Lexis Nexis, AJS Business Management Systems, The Millennium Trust and Spier Wine Estate.
Thanks also to Freshly Minced for technical services, MC Michael Motsoeneng-Bill and Limeblue Design.


Click here for our complete December 2019 Newsletter

Celebrating One of Our Own

By Muchengeti Hwacha, Johannesburg intern Pic Dakalo Singo

ProBono.Org would like to extend a congratulatory message to one of our partner attorneys, Dakalo Singo of Werksmans. He was featured in the Mail & Guardian’s annual list of eminent South Africans under the age of 35.

His work in representing refugees against the Minister of Labour resulted in a landmark Constitutional Court judgement, which affirmed the labour rights of this marginalised community. That judgment has become the catalyst for ProBono.Org, with support from the HCI Foundation, to develop a campaign and monitoring mechanism to ensure its effective enforcement.

Congratulations Dakalo, continue the good work.


Click here for our complete August 2019 Newsletter

Attorney Profiles

Delia Jay

Durban attorney Delia Jay recently concluded a very interesting family law matter. When the client came to us at the pro bono desk, she had been turned away by everyone and told there was nothing that anyone could do to help her get divorced. She needed to get divorced as she had a new partner with whom she had had a child. The client’s husband was a Nigerian and he left South Africa 15 years ago. Despite client’s efforts, he could not be located.

Delia contacted a tracing agent to do a search for the husband, but he could not be found. In the end, Delia had to make an application for substituted service to get an interim order on affidavit stating that she could advertise in Canada, where client had last received a phone call from her husband in 2002. The order was granted and Delia personally raised the money to advertise in the Toronto Star, which was about R10 000 because of the poor exchange rate. ($ 1000 Canadian dollars). Delia advertised and the court finally agreed to set the matter down.

There were many delays, largely because dealing with the Durban Regional Magistrate’s Court, trying to get documents issued and a court date granted were very challenging. At times Delia felt like she was on a lone crusade and wanted to give up. It was also time consuming, as being a sole practitioner she had to attend to everything herself, including indexing and paginating, and making sure her file didn’t get lost. The magistrate eventually heard the matter on 10 April 2018 and granted the divorce. Delia feels a great deal of satisfaction in having finally achieved a happy result for the client so that she can move on with her life and her family.


Chrysi Kripotos

Chrysi Kripotos is an attorney practising in her own firm in Johannesburg. She is a conveyancer who has been in practice for 34 years.

The ProBono.Org Deeds Office help desk opened its doors at the Deeds Office in Johannesburg in June 2017. Chrysi has been part of the help desk since then. Chrysi says that she loves helping people who cannot afford legal services and that attending the help desk is the highlight of her week.

Chrysi has assisted clients with property transfers, donations, correction of names in the title deed, transfers from deceased estates, drafting of wills as well as section 17, 45 and 93 registrations.

Chrysi gets really frustrated when she is unable to assist clients. She feels that the help desk needs more qualified attorneys to assist with clients’ problems due to the number of people seeking help and that more days should be allocated in order to assist the indigent.

Some of the challenges include consulting with clients who coerce their elderly parents to make transfers in their favour. The consulting attorney has to ask the relevant questions in order to determine whether the transfer is in good faith and that the elderly parents are aware of the legal implications. Another challenge often encountered is the transfer of property from household permits to a title deed in terms of the Conversion of Certain Rights into Leasehold or Ownership Act. This has resulted in many clients seeking legal assistance at the help desk in order to reverse property transfers. Many of these transfers have divided families and it is unfortunate that many people still do not know about an Act that affects their lives so profoundly.


Portia Tsele, our latest Johannesburg intern

We welcomed Portia to the team in May and she is working with the Housing, Refugee and Community Advice Office unit.

She has an LLB from UNISA and is working towards an LLM in Property Law with the same university. She began her journey with ProBono.Org as a volunteer. Her reason for studying law was to give her the opportunity to help people. Working at ProBono.Org as a legal intern extends the reach of her charitable nature and enables her to assist the vulnerable and indigent members of our society.

Outside of work she is a member of the Catholic Women’s League and engages in their social welfare activities such as child adoption.

Portia hopes that her continued passion for assisting the marginalised and vulnerable in society helps her to make a meaningful contribution to the legal fraternity.


Click here for our complete June 2018 Newsletter

Practitioner Profile

Practitioner Profile

By Masechaba Modise, Legal Intern


Emily Ruth West is a young, vibrant legal practitioner, practising at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. She was born in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. She obtained her law degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and relocated to Johannesburg to commence her articles with the firm in 2015. In May 2017 she was admitted as an attorney and is now an associate working in the Trust and Estates department.

The Trust and Estates department specialises in the administration of deceased estates, trust matters, wills and estate planning. As part of their initiative to give back to the community and serve their pro bono hours, Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has practitioners who volunteer at the Master’s Office Help Desk and Emily is one of them.

The Master’s Help Desk is located at the Master of the High Court, Johannesburg and assists destitute and indigent members of the public who need assistance with either reporting and administration of a deceased estate, estate planning and general legal advice pertaining to deceased estates.

Although this is a great avenue for the practitioners, Emily often encounters challenges which are common but not limited to reporting and administering estates worth R250 000 or more and where the only asset in the estate is immovable property, often indebted to the municipality.

The biggest challenge however has been dealing with and advising on deceased estates where she has to explain the non-existent notion of a “family house” and the interpretation of ownership in terms of legislation applicable to the country. More often than not the clients become confused and agitated, especially because most of them do not understand the distinction between the customary context and the legal interpretation of ownership, but as a legal practitioner one has to apply the law as is and allow the client to learn and understand the concepts. As Emily says, “ It’s daunting but someone has to do it, and unfortunately that someone is me sometimes.”

Given its challenges, Emily and the firm generally love to assist with pro bono work as they get to engage with the actual people. The firm predominantly deals with corporate matters, so to have the opportunity to work and help actual people who may not under ordinary circumstances be able to afford such legal services is fulfilling. To quote Emily, “We sit in our comfortable offices in Sandton but once you step out to go and staff the Help Desk you get exposed to a whole different world, where the reality of how many people cannot afford basic legal assistance because of their financial difficulties stares you in the face. That experience on its own is enough to make any practitioner want to assist in any way possible”.

Emily believes that with more initiative from legal practitioners and relevant stakeholders the Administration of Deceased Estates Act can be amended to accommodate the indigent and vulnerable.


Click here for our complete April 2018 Newsletter

The unsung heroes of ProBono.Org, Durban

By Petrina Chetty.



Fawzia Khan

Fawzia Khan of Fawzia Khan & Associates is a sole proprietor and general litigation attorney. She joined our panel in 2015. Since then, Ms Khan has maintained a consistent presence at ProBono.Org due to her desire to help people. Apart from taking on numerous matters, Ms Khan has assisted us with many of our special projects, such as the 16 Days of Activism help desks, and seminars for GreenAble and the KZN Blind & Deaf Society. Ms Khan is one of the attorneys that we can (and do!) approach when we need assistance urgently. In an organisation like ProBono.Org, it is most valuable to have attorneys like Ms Khan on our panel. She has proven that everyone can give back if they so wish.

“Giving back to the community by providing free legal services to the vulnerable and indigent is most fulfilling and highly rewarding”

Gregory Botha Pitcher & Fismer Attorneys

Gregory Botha

Another attorney who we wish to acknowledge is Gregory Botha of Pitcher & Fismer Attorneys. Mr Botha is a general litigation attorney and also joined our panel in 2015. As Mr Botha practises in Pietermaritzburg, it is difficult for our Pietermaritzburgbased firms to staff our help desks in Durban. Mr Botha compensates for that by being ever willing to take on individual matters and has assisted us tremendously in this regard. He has gone above and beyond his mandate to ensure that clients are assisted.

“ I believe ProBono.Org helps to ensure that those less fortunate in our society have access to quality representation, ensuring these individuals’ rights are properly protected and / or enforced, making ‘access to justice’ a reality for them.”