– Foreigners buy the birth certificates of dead SA children to gain South African citizenship, the department of home affairs says.
To prevent that, it is considering "reregistration" of children at age five, and capturing fingerprints and photos of the iris then.
It may also want photos of the ears of babies.
Allowing South Africans to apply for a full ID at age 10 will reduce the risk of matriculants trying to write exams without a smart ID, the DHA says.
When they turn five years old, South African children should be "reregistered" with the government, with a comprehensive set of biometric data captured, the department of home affairs (DHA) has recommended.
That, it says, is the way to stop foreigners stealing the identities of dead children.
The department on Thursday gazetted its draft Identity Management Policy, laying out its thinking on how to update South Africa's system of identification, under legislation now 20 years old.
It has proposed a system of random ID numbers, or at least replacing one digit with an "X" to make provision for people who do not fall into the male/female binary.
South Africa's system of registering people is fundamentally flawed, the department says, and that will require changes to how children are registered.
"Any child can lay claim to the identity of another child and such instances have been recorded. For instance, there is a practice, especially in borderline communities, where birth certificates of deceased children are sold to foreign nationals. This happens when the death of a child is not reported to the DHA."
The plan is to capture biometric data at birth, to prevent such instances, and the DHA has called for "stronger cooperation" between it and the department of health in that regard.
"However, not all biometric traits captured from children shortly after birth can be used to verify their identities later in life."
It is considering photographing the ears of children to help, but also wants to capture biometrics again during childhood.
"Children must be reregistered when they reach age five with ten fingerprints and iris and facial photographs," the DHA says.
It then recommends that the legal age for applications for an ID be dropped from 16 to the age of 10.
This, and the capture of biometric data at that point, will "curb identity theft", the department says. It will also "mitigate a risk of having matriculants who write matric examinations without smart ID cards.".