South Africans must pay up for smart IDs

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South Africans will have to fork out R140 when applying for a new smart ID card.

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) said on Tuesday that smart ID cards will be issued free to 16-year-olds who are first-time applicants, while all other applicants will be expected to pay R140.

The department was unable to respond in time to a question whether it plans to have subsidies in place for South Africans who cannot afford to pay for a smart ID card. It is also unclear how the application amount was determined, and when the DHA decided on this.
“I find from a philosophical point of view [charging citizens for the smart ID card] is corrupt in the sense you shouldn’t have to pay for something that is mandatory,” says investment analyst Chris Gilmour. “Everyone requires one of these things. At some point, government will declare the green ID books to be invalid and you will need to have [a smart ID card].”

Gilmour says the cost of an ID system should be incurred by government and not come from the pockets of citizens, especially since the card is compulsory.

Private sector impact

When announcing the roll-out plan for the smart ID cards, home affairs minister Naledi Pandor said the private sector would benefit from the cards by knowing exactly who they are transacting with.
“One of the phases for us to work through is that of ensuring those businesses, banks, the insurance industry and other partners have the necessary equipment to verify smart ID cards,” said Pandor.

Gilmour says while a few companies will likely need to alter their equipment in order to be able to accept and verify the smart ID cards, he believes the financial implications thereof will not be enormous.
“If you look at the kind of technology we have in bank cards these days, the card readers being used are so smart, they should be able to read [the smart ID card] without much trouble at all,” he explains. “There shouldn’t be a massive cost involved in reading the smart ID cards, and if there is, the technology [the company] had gone for has been corrupt in the first place.”

Gilmour notes the smart ID card will also offer financial benefits to the private sector by cutting down on identity fraud. “The card should cut down a lot of the latitude people currently have when performing identity theft, making that type of thing a lot more difficult.”

The DHA has repeatedly noted the advanced security features of the smart ID card, saying it will be “extremely difficult to forge or tamper with”.

Physical security features on the card body include holograms, laser engraving and personal details which will provide visual verification of the card and easily identify tampered cards, while logical security features include fingerprint biometrics and biographic data which is embedded on the 80KB card chip.



The smart ID card was officially launched last week with the handover of former president Nelson Mandela’s card. Pandor was scheduled to hand over former president FW de Klerk’s card to him yesterday, and archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu will receive his today.