Identity by numbers

Research: Text/archive - Tshepo Maloi

All South Africans, according to the Population Registration Act, were provided with an official identity document. Along with this document, each citizen was provided with an identity number. But this was no ordinary serial number: all the information regarding your sex, race and ethnicity was contained in this number. After the establishment of the Bantustans, blacks were no longer considered citizens of South Africa, and their identity numbers changed accordingly. Read here how identity numbers were generated for whites, coloureds and Asians in South Africa after the creation of the Bantustans.

The identity number consisting of 13 digits and appearing on page 1 of the identity document is made up as follows:

(a) The first six digits represent the date of birth of the holder, the first two indicating the year, the next two the month, and the fifth and sixth the day of birth.

(b) The following group (four digits) is a serial number and indicates the sex of the person concerned. If the 7th to 10th digits are 0001 to 4 999 the holder is a female person, and if they are above 5 000 a male person is indicated.

(c) The third group of digits (the 11th and 12th) indicates the person's citizenship and population group as follows:

Population Group SA Citizen Non-SA Citizen

(i) White 00 10
(ii) Cape Coloured 01 11
(iii) Malay 02 12
(iv) Griqua 03 13
(v) Chinese 04 14
(vi) Indian 05 15
(vii) Other Asian 06 16
(viii) Other Coloured 07 17

(d) The last digit (the 13th) is a control digit forming part of the number.

- "Explanation of South African identity number", in "South African identity document" at <>

back to the Race Classification Board memorial page

"Even the Cango Caves had a separate entrance for black people."
Vincent Kolbe on Race Classification
Apartheid signs, Mossel Bay
Picture: © Sunday Times


In this lesson plan, learners will have the chance to interact with information from clauses of the Population Registration Act of 1950 as well as from various legal records associated with two cases of people appealing for reclassification.

Lesson plan (1.09MB)
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