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Groutville’s ‘dead’ man walking shares how he has been kept from living a normal life

The battle has been a long and futile one for Sfundo Mpungose who believes someone stole his identity when he was a young boy to take out a life insurance policy and then had him declared dead to claim it. 

A Groutville resident has been trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare for 14 years after falling victim to identity theft which led him to being declared dead.

The battle has been a long and futile one for Sfundo Mpungose who believes someone stole his identity when he was a young boy to take out a life insurance policy and then had him declared dead to claim it. 

The 25-year-old’s troubles began in 2006 when his single mother, Hlengiwe Mhlongo (48) went to the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) offices to apply for a child support grant. 

To her astonishment the application was denied as, according to the system, Mpungose – then 11 years old – was dead. 

Mpungose said his mother was told to visit Home Affairs in KwaDukuza for verification and there she learnt it was true.

The system had a record of all the appropriate “proof of death” documentation including a death certificate signed by a doctor, his own birth certificate, an affidavit by a Maphumulo community elder confirming his permanent residency and a burial order from a funeral home. 

“After explaining to them that I was not dead, my mother was advised to obtain an affidavit from a police station confirming that I was alive. After filling out forms and taking a full set of finger prints she was told to report back within a few weeks as the department needed time to investigate the case,” said Mpungose. 

A case was opened at KwaDukuza police station but his mother said she never heard back from the police. 

“An official from the department said the case would be investigated, but they told my mother it would take a long time to resolve as it is very difficult given all the ‘evidence’ on the system.”

Sfundo Mpungose’s status is still marked as deceased when doing credit check with his ID number.

“In 2011 when I turned 16, I went to the department myself to apply for an identity document. My mother had given up trying to get my status changed and had spent a lot of time and money travelling back and forth from the department with no results. 

“After filling out all the application forms and paying R250 I was told I would be notified when my application would be ready. This took months and eventually I went in again and was told my application was rejected as I was still registered as deceased.”

Mpungose once again supplied a number of affidavits, including one from his school principal at Inkosi Albert Luthuli High, confirming he was alive.

But his application was denied.

This happened 4 times and each time Mpungose was required to pay the R250 application fee. 

A mixed martial arts expert, Mpungose missed out on the opportunity to represent his country at the 2014 Kyokushin Kai World Open and Elite Championships held in Japan.

Mpungose was a KwaDukuza champion several times and took gold at the Salga games. 

“I wasn’t able to compete overseas because I would not have been able to get a passport as a result of my ‘deceased’ status on the system. I had to write my matric exams using a signed affidavit as I couldn’t get an ID,” said Mpungose. 

However, numerous appeals to the late KwaDukuza mayor, Ricardo Mtmembu, resulted in Mpungose securing a meeting with the mayor. 

“In 2018 Mthembu heard my plight and assisted me with my ID application, which was then issued by the department of Home Affairs.” 

However, despite now holding an ID, Mpungose’s woes continue.

While Home Affairs have issued him with a letter confirming that he is alive, his troubles are far from over.

The letter confirms that his ‘death’ has been ‘expunged’ from the death register, but it still exists with the credit bureau.

“I still cannot open an account, get a lease in my name, a driver’s license or any other normal thing as my credit record always comes back saying I am deceased. 

“I am a businessman at heart and there are so many things I want to achieve and opportunities I have missed. This issue still hangs over my head daily and has impacted every area of my life. I have become disillusioned with the system and don’t know where or who to turn to for help anymore.”

The Department of Home Affairs introduced an Alive Status Verification in 2009 to assist South Africans in ensuring that they have not been fraudulently declared dead.

The toll free number the Courier tried said Mpungose’s status was ‘alive’.

Yet when his identity number is entered in a banking app, he is told to contact the department of home affairs as his ID number is marked ‘deceased’.

A credit report we applied also showed his status as deceased. 

Home Affairs spokesperson David Hlabane told the Courier he would investigate the matter. 

KZN Saps provincial spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said they could not follow up the case with the investigating officer and determine what became of the investigation as Mpungose’s mother no longer had the case number she was supplied at the police station 14 years ago.

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