30 Mar 2012


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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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!


What is a South African ID number made up of? | Robert MacLe's picture

[...] your smartphone? Click here Update 30 March 2012: Details of the racial identifier can be found at: http://www.sadev.co.za/content/south-african-id-numbers-racial-identifie... Tshikedi asked a great question - what is actually in an ID [...]

paulo's picture

so please help me here
i lost my id number and havent been living in sa now back in sa how do i find it

Robert MacLean's picture

Go to home affairs
Dave Du Plessis's picture

Is this webpage still in use? I found it when asking a very important question to the Google Search Machine. I need to know if my ID Number was altered by the registration offices and if yes, how do I prove that the old number did belong to me.

Robert MacLean's picture

You will need to go to home affairs for that
Dave Du Plessis's picture

Yip, I guess that's the only option, thanks.

Ash's picture

Hi, need some help, i need to filter out over 5000 id numbers by race.....any ideas on how i can do it?

Robert MacLean's picture

You can't. Read above, that information was removed in '86/'87.
Rudi Bote's picture

Chinese is a nationality...its suppose to be Asian you racist

Robert MacLean's picture

NO, it isn't. It is Chinese. See Other Asian for the grab bag that follows it. I didn't pick the term used, that is the choice of the (racist) apartheid government. This article is looking at the history not my opinions.
Adrian's picture

I'm a South African born Chinese person. My old ID used to end in ... 045. Now it's ... 086. The previous classifications were as allocated by the government of the time.

Theo Klein's picture

I have been asked a question by a person whose ID number ends with "087". Her mother was previously classified as "Coloured" but was then classified as "White" in the days when the Mixed Marriages Act was still on the statute books. Her question is whether she could be classified as "Coloured" in terms of Employment Equity legislation as her parents are in-effect a mixed-race couple.

Robert MacLean's picture

No idea. Legislation is not something I know about. This is about the math and history of the ID number. Best to check with a lawyer.
Michel BOUGAULT's picture

I need a new ID number in order to get Tax Clearance from SARS for my MIPF Pension. I have an old number issued in 1972. How do I find the application for for a new ID No. please. (I have been issued with a new Tax Number)

Thank you.

Robert MacLean's picture

You need to go to home affairs
Patrick's picture

I did my own research and find out that following guidelines and assumptions are followed while validating Passport Numbers. The Passport Number is of the following format :

A12 34567

The format will be same for all the Passport numbers. i.e. the first character is an upper case letter of the English alphabet, followed by 2 numbers, then an optional space followed by 5 numbers.

We bring additional assumptions:

The first digit or the last digit will never be 0
The first character cannot be Q, X or Z.

Hide Copy Code

Passport Number

Tahni-Ann Wilson's picture

Hi Robert, Thanks for the post. Do you know how I go about finding out my grandfather's old ID number? He died before the change and are battling to find out. We are abroad so going to home affairs would be tricky. Any ideas? Thank you so much.

Nico Heyns's picture

Good day. please can you help me with an ID number. i have been trying to find out how this ID number works and if it will be correct. it is for my father in law to be. He was born in SWA now Namibia the ID number is 6105050101602. This is all we have and is recorded on his marge certificate.

thank you.

Robert MacLean's picture

Technically it doesn't look right; first six digits (610505) say he was born on May 5th, 1961. The next digit is gender (0) which is female. So doubt it is right.

Maybe there was some issue with the system at the time or this is the pre 1981 ID number which was different. Best you can do is go to home affairs and check with them.

Herman's picture

It is probably a Namibian ID number as they look similar to ours

Desire Campbell 's picture

I have old registration documents for my granddad & grandmother....starting with 331 I think and a few digits after that. We don't have their original ID documents. Is there a way to go about finding out what their ID numbers were. This dates back to the 1940's.

Andrew Allen's picture

Is there anyway I can found out what my old ID number was

Nkululeko's picture

My father was a South African he was born in the early thirties . He went to exile in .Zambia got married there and got us he died when I was six . I don't know his ID numbers I'm I need them to fill in his fund forms . In home affairs they couldn't help me. Please were can I get them .

lisa Kriel's picture

The old ID number is some times referred to as the birth entry number.

All digits except the last 3 stay the same, it is only the racial classification and the check-digit that changed.

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