By Christine Hobden (University of Fort Hare), GLOBALCIT collaborator.
In June 2019, a South African Non-Profit Organisation, Lawyers for Human Rights, applied to the South African Constitutional Court for confirmation of a High Court order declaring unconstitutional the provisions of the South African Citizenship Act 88 of 1995 that effectively stripped individuals born outside of the country, to South African nationals, of their citizenship by descent. The case was heard in February 2020 and judgment is reserved.
This case has highlighted a number of ongoing issues with South African citizenship practice. Perhaps the most evident is lack of capacity of the Department of Home Affairs in legal matters; in this case, and others, the department was responsible for the extensive delay in finalising the litigation. The Department admits to being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of cases instituted against it. There are between 8000 and 10,000 pending cases across the country. More importantly, this case provides a useful glimpse into the Department’s narrow interpretation of citizenship legislation and justification for its actions.