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Many South African citizens do not know the correct procedures to follow in order to register a death, or how to obtain a death certificate and by whom, until it is too late. Coming to terms with a death is difficult enough without having to enquire about the legal processes that are necessary in the circumstances in order to proceed with funeral arrangements and other family affairs. The Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992 outlines the simple requirements and procedures to be followed upon the death of a South African citizen.
The Births and Deaths Registration Act no. 51 of 1992 requires that a person’s death must be reported to any one of the following people authorised by The Department of Home Affairs. Specific officers at the Department of Home Affairs, South African Police Service members, South African Missions, Embassy’s or Consulates where the death occurred abroad or funeral undertakers that have been appointed and are recognised by law.
A Notification of Death or Still Birth Form (Form BI-1663) must be completed when reporting a death. This form, along with all other forms that may be necessary are available from all Home Affairs offices. The following people have to complete different sections of this form in order for it to be submitted: the person reporting the death, the medical practitioner or traditional healer involved in the declaration of the death, and a Home Affairs official or a member of the Police service if a Home Affairs official is not available.
A Death Report (Form BI-1680) will be issued after a death has been registered with one of the relevant department officials. Only someone whom the Department of Home Affairs has authorised to do so can issue this report and this includes traditional leaders, members of the SA Police Services and authorised undertakers. These designated people may also issue burial orders. No burial may take place unless authorised by way of a burial order (Form BI-14).
Deaths of South African citizens and South African permanent residence permit holders that occur outside South Africa must be reported to the nearest South African embassy or mission abroad. The country in which the death occurs must issue a death certificate and a certified copy of the death certificate must be submitted to the South African embassy or mission when reporting a death. If the deceased is to be buried in South Africa, the embassy or mission will assist with the paperwork and arrangements with regards to transportation of the body to South Africa.
The Department of Home Affairs will issue a Death Certificate on receipt of the notification of death form BI-1663 and the Death Report form BI-1680. Applications for a Death Certificate must be lodged at any office of the Department of Home Affairs or at any South African embassy, mission or consulate if the death occurs abroad. An abridged death certificate will be issued free of charge on the same day of registration of death. An unabridged death certificate can be obtained by completing Form BI-132 and paying the required fee.
If a person has been recorded, mistakenly or fraudulently, as dead in the National Population Register, (i.e. they are still alive); this must be reported as soon as possible to the nearest Department of Home Affairs office for urgent investigation and corrective action.
Chapter 3 (Section 14 to 22) of the Births and Death’s Registration Act regulates all matters pertaining to the Registrations of Deaths in South Africa and regulations on how to obtain a Death Certificate. The Act provides for the different procedures to be followed when a death is due to natural causes, stillbirth or other methods. This process is simple to follow and the appointed officials at Home Affairs Departments are fully equipped to process registrations and to answer any questions you may have.
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