IN A scathing judgment a Bhisho High Court judge has dismissed efforts by the Department of Home Affairs to have a man's lawsuit thrown out on the basis that illiteracy was not an excuse for a delay in seeking legal assistance.
The department asked the court to treat "with contempt" Mapotini Totolo's explanation that it took him a long time to access legal assistance to obtain a new ID document because he was illiterate.
"These are meaningless remarks and do nothing to further the case of Home Affairs," Judge Judith Roberson's judgment read.
The court heard that Totolo had been waiting five years for Home Affairs to decide on whether to issue him with a new ID reflecting his correct date of birth. Totolo claims he was born on March 17 1943 and said he had a baptismal certificate to prove this.
The Population Register, however, reflects his date of birth as March 17 1951.
The court heard that after applying for his date of birth to be changed, Totolo, who cannot read or write, went back to Home Affairs every month for two years before he approached an attorney to help him.
His attorney wrote letters, but was also ignored.
Home Affairs claimed that the only reason why Totolo wanted a new ID was to get access to an old age pension, adding that it very much doubted the authenticity of his baptismal certificate.
The legal team for Home Affairs also argued that Totolo should pay the legal costs of the application as he was likely trying to defraud the department.
Roberson said it was in fact Home Affairs who was grossly negligent and "bordering on abuse of the court process" by opposing the matter to cover up the fact that they did not consider the application in five years.
"Home Affairs' case was filled with inaccurate and careless denials, or professed lack of knowledge... " she said.
Roberson ordered the department to consider Totolo's application.
She added that Home Affairs should also pay the costs of the application on a punitive scale.
She added that Totolo's attorney's fee for drawing up an affidavit should be reduced by 75% as she agreed that he was "unnecessarily longwinded".