All South African citizens should have identity documents, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Thursday.
The transition from the ID book to a smart card ID marked the distance travelled after the pass laws were abolished, he said.
“That distance is measured by understanding the future as projected by those who came before us.
“As we mark this distance, we remember that in 1930 our mothers rose and demonstrated against the dompas. They took a firm stand against the dompas.”
Motlanthe was speaking at the Union Buildings, in Pretoria, after receiving his new smart card ID.
“This [event] marks the distance we have travelled. Every citizen must have an ID, it’s not wrong to have an ID,” he said.
“Of course it was wrong to carry a dompas.”
The home affairs department also issued former president Nelson Mandela with a smart card ID on Thursday, as the ailing statesman celebrated his 95th birthday.
Mandela was admitted to the Medi-Clinic Heart Hospital in Pretoria on June 8 with a recurring lung infection.
His daughter Zindzi Mandela-Motlhajwa was handed a replica of the card by former president Thabo Mbeki at the Union Buildings.
She said Mandela was making a remarkable recovery in hospital.
“I would like to assure you, though I may not be a medical doctor, that Tata is making remarkable progress and we look forward to having him back at home soon,” she said.
“I often tease him, saying ‘our father who art in Houghton’. We would like to have him there [in Houghton], not in hospital.”
She professed her admiration for Mandela, not only as her father but also as a freedom fighter.
“It’s such an honour to receive this historical gift on behalf of Tata. I admire him not only as my father, but as my comrade and my leader for the courageous fight he was part of with the [African National Congress] against the unjust pass laws.”
“Today marks this historic event in terms of the recognition of our citizenship and the restoration of the dignity of the majority of our people who were denied and stripped of this dignity,” she said.
The first smart cards were being issued to eminent people, such as President Jacob Zuma, Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, his wife Graca Machel, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and Mbeki.
Other recipients of the first batch of cards were former president FW de Klerk, and struggle veterans Sophie de Bruyn, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada, and Dennis Goldberg.
Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor said other first recipients would include aged South Africans, some of them 100-years-old.