Cheryl Kahla
Deputy Online News Editor
2 minute read
30 Jul 2021
2:53 pm

Here’s what your ID number means and why Home Affairs wants to change it

Cheryl Kahla

The current Identification Act is outdated and violates constitutional principles, according to activists.

Home Affairs chief information officer demonstrating an ID card reader. Picture: Gallo Images/Foto24/Brendan Croft

Many activists have in recent months called on the Department of Home Affairs to revise the Identification Act as current ID numbers contain personal information, which they say is not in line with constitutional principles.

In December 2020, Home Affairs published its Draft Official Identity Management Policy with proposed changes to the current Act. The department said in its motivation that the current Act was over 20 years old and went against the principles of human dignity.

An ID by any other number?

It’s a little known fact that your ID number isn’t just your date of birth followed by seven random digits. Each digit represents personal information about you, including your gender and citizenship.

The first six digits of your ID number is your date of birth, in the YYMMDD format, followed by four digits used to define your gender:

  • Female: 0000 to 4999
  • Male: 5000 to 9999

The 11th digit of your ID number indicates your citizenship: South African citizens’ 11th digit will be 0, while a permanent resident will have the number 1 in the 11th slot.

The 12th digit – an indicator used until the 1980s – signifies your race, while the 13th digit is used to verify if the ID number is valid. The current ID number system does not cater to non-binary genders.

Proposed ID number changes

One of the proposed changes is to use a neutral, random number not linked to gender, to accommodate transgender, non-binary, and intersex people, an initiative supported by Gender Dynamix (GDX).

Legal advocacy officer at GDX, Zoey Black, said: “Random numbers protect an individual’s personal information and remain with the person for life, irrespective of whether or not their particulars change over time.”

ALSO READ: Driver’s licence renewal deadline looms: What you need to know

Apart from the recognition of other genders, Home Affairs suggests that the biometrics of children be captured at birth, and for a child’s ID number to be linked to their parents’ numbers, and the mother’s biometric data.

In addition, children must be re-registered when they reach the age of five. This will include recapturing their fingerprints, iris and facial photographs.