I recently accepted a Facebook friend request from someone with the same name as my brother.
The “Facebook friend” Jabulane Zwane and I became friends about two months ago. Soon after that he told me he had been abandoned by his biological parents, lived with his adoptive parents and needed my help to get a South African identity document (ID). Initially I was apprehensive as there are scams around. I wanted to delete but instead I decided to ask questions.
When I asked him how he would like me to help him he responded “go to hmeafairs n confes dat u knw me”.
This was clearly a problem for me as I didn’t know this Jabulane Zwane. I began to wonder if he was a desperate person in need of an identity document or if this was a case of an identity theft scam.
Home Affairs spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa told Vuvuzela: “There are black people who were not registered on the database of the country; these people need to apply for a late registration birth.”
Mamoepa said the person must present themselves at Home Affairs and they can apply on their own behalf. They should bring their birth certificate, police affidavit, people who know them and a school report.
There was an incident in 2009 when a young boy killed himself because he had such trouble getting an ID. Skhumbuzo Mhlongo, born in 1987, killed himself in frustration. The Home Affairs official who was conducting his interview was not satisfied with the information Mhlongo gave and accused him of lying. The official tore his papers, threw them at him and said Mhlongo was clearly not a South African citizen. They called him a derogatory name used for foreigners.
My Facebook “friend” Zwane about two weeks ago, claimed to have the same issue “eish I dnt hv mum n dad n I lv wth th stp parnts n I dnt hv brthcirtficate”, he wrote on my private inbox. He said that as a result of not having an ID he’s been told to stop attending school “ja n thy say I cnt go to xkul if I dnt hv it.”
Zwane claims that he went to Home Affairs with his adoptive parents to apply for a late birth certificate. His application was rejected, he said, because he didn’t have enough information to prove that he was a South African citizen. He has now become desperate.
“I rathr die, myb thngz will get bttr 4evry1” he wrote. I started getting concerned about his well-being, bearing in mind Mhlongo’s suicide.
But as Mamoepa said “the danger is you don’t know who approached you, you are taking a chance”.
I still don’t know whether Zwane is a scam artist who has access to the internet, a Facebook account without a profile picture looking to scam students or if he’s a 19-year-old young man desperate to get an ID in order to further his studies.