Source: The Conversation
There is a widely recognised dissonance between the progressive, inclusive vision of South Africa’s constitution and xenophobia experienced by foreign nationals across South Africa. It can be tempting to describe this tension as one between good, inclusive laws and bad, xenophobic citizens.
But my recent investigation into South Africa’s citizenship law reveals that this is far too simplistic an explanation. My research shows that reduced access to citizenship in South Africa is shaped at the legislative level as well as through government’s implementation strategies – or the lack thereof.
I argue that this trend reveals hidden agendas within the country’s government structures to what I call “shrink South Africa”.
This is not what the founders of a democratic South Africa envisaged. The 1995 South African Citizenship Act replaced apartheid legislation. The new law was drawn up in line with the country’s constitution, which provided for a common citizenship for all. It thus extensively widened the scope of free and equal citizenship to all citizens.
This initial post-apartheid legislation was generous in scope. It provided means to acquire – or reacquire – citizenship for those who had lost or failed to acquire their citizenship due to apartheid policy. Examples included some who had lived in exile, who were forced to travel illegally, migrant workers, or “homeland” residents.
In the intervening years the act has been amended three times – in 2004, 2007 and 2010. With a few notable exceptions, these amendments have systematically reduced access to citizenship.