Advisory – Positive Means of Identifying Individuals Highlighted

Lucas Tshuuya

Identification is one of the means of identifying and/or individualizing something or someone.

To differentiate one thing from another can be achieved by using means of identification, applicable either by name, identification mark, mark, fingerprints and scientific means of identification, such as acid deoxynucleic (DNA) and forensic odontology, in some cases like after someone’s death.

According to the Births, Marriages and Deaths Registration Act 81 of 1963, once a child is born or stillborn, a notice of birth must be given to the registrar within 14 days by the parents or the occupant of a building where the birth took place.

To register a birth, all that is needed is a birth certificate from the maternity ward of a hospital where the birth took place – or if the child was born in a rural area, a letter from the traditional authority of the area where the child was born is required. In some cases, church records of the congregation where the child’s parents congregate are required.

Interestingly, no other requirements are needed to positively identify this child and/or link the child to the birth certificate issued by the Department of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security.

Article 15 of the Namibian Constitution states that a child has the right to a name from birth for the purpose of identification.

Once the birth of the child is registered, the child grows up using a birth certificate as a means of identification until the age of 16, in accordance with the Identification Act 21 of 1996, and then would request an identity document (ID). Only then would the fingerprints be taken to link the child to the ID, and the child’s fingerprint images would be retained in the national population system for life.

Once the ID is produced and ready to be picked up, the child can pick up the ID. It is not necessary to take the fingerprints of this child for purposes of correspondence with the identity document produced. This child is required to sign only the ID on the ID collection records.

Here is where there is a chance that anyone who has obtained the proof of registration card (temporary identity card) from another person and presents it to the Ministry of Interior as his or hers can retrieve that person’s ID card and begin using it, such as applying for school admission, employment, loans, and/or driver’s licenses.

In fact, there are recorded incidents where some people have used other people’s IDs for the purpose of getting married.

Some people have been arrested by police after committing crimes, tried in courts and sentenced to prison terms under other people’s IDs – and are said to be known and identified with such IDs – whereas, in the real sense, these IDs belong to other people, simply because the applicable means of identification have loopholes that must be abused.

Normally public officials only use vision screening to identify individuals as there is no scientific system to positively identify people as explained above.

Real and movable property, such as houses, planes, guns, vehicles and ships – to name a few – can be identified by unique serial numbers, or by a VIN in embossed or etched on them to individualize them for easy identification so they are not mixed-up with similar assets.

In developed countries, a person is positively identified by scientific means – even after death.

There have been reports in Namibia of people using other people’s IDs to seek employment, apply for driving licenses, loans, admission to schools, etc. and it succeeded because there is no system in place to detect such anomalies.

These incidents are usually detected later when the perpetrators have already had opportunities to their advantage while using the credentials of others. Once detected, public officials begin to bring charges of misrepresentation or impersonation against suspects when the harm is already caused by such propensity. It becomes difficult to remedy the situation after the effect.

Such anomalies have occurred in workplaces such as the Namibian Defense Force, Namibian Police, Ministry of Education (ghost teachers) and at CDM now Namdeb to name a few.

This situation becomes intractable when these people resign, retire or die using other people’s IDs, while administrative officials struggle to process these individual benefit claims.

The Namibian authorities should consider reviewing and/or changing their means of identification and introducing a scientific means of identifying people to avoid this conundrum, as it leads to risk and economic turmoil, as anyone who collects the identity card Another person’s identity would begin to use it as if they were their own.

* Lucas Tshuuya is a graduate in police science from NUST and an LLB graduate.

2022-08-12 Staff reporter

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