South African ID Numbers: The racial identifier flag

Submitted by Robert MacLean on Fri, 03/30/2012 - 11:13


In a previous post on what makes up an ID number I mention that

The second last number used to be a racial identifier but now means nothing.

But I never went into the topic so lets dive into the options – today it is for almost everyone 08 (I suspect a 09 or two may be floating around) but in the “bad old days” there was a variety of options:

Population Group S.A. Citizen Non-S.A. Citizen
White 00 10
Cape Coloured 01 11
Malay 02 12
Griqua 03 13
Chinese 04 14
Indian 05 15
Other Asian 06 16
Other Coloured 07 17

For my non-South African readers the use of Coloured as a group here is not the same as the American racial slur, in South Africa we have a population group called Coloured:

How did we change from the old to the new?

So what happened to those bits as we do not have them now? In 1986 there was the introduction of a new law: Identification Act no 72, which caused the law that made the classification (and a horrible concept where every black person had to carry a “Pass Book”) repelled.

So over the course of 1986 and 1987 everyone in South Africa was issued a new ID number and somewhere inside the government there is a database that maps old ID numbers to new ones for people born before 1986! I can’t remember what this was process was like, since I was about 4 years old at this point. This means though I have a different number on my birth certificate to what I use now!