South Africa: Fixing the home affairs department is key to fighting xenophobia

Published: 24/Jan/2022
Source: Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

By Christine Hobden

Xenophobia is back on the table: the Economic Freedom Fighters programme to check the ratio of South African to foreign employees at restaurants has prompted a heated public discourse. Where exactly is the line drawn between democratic care for South Africans and being xenophobic? And who is driving this line: disillusioned citizens or manoeuvring political parties — or, of course, a combination of both?

If we are to meaningfully tackle xenophobia we need, too, to get the department of home affairs in order, both in its practical running and in line with its legislative and constitutional obligations.

My analysis of South African citizenship law suggests the department is “shrinking South Africa”, making it increasingly difficult to acquire citizenship. This is both through legislative amendments and, most concerningly, through overreach on the part of the department.

For example, the department has failed to create regulations to allow for the functioning of some parts of legislation — such as the statelessness clause in the South African Citizenship Act, for which there is still no provision in the latest 2020 draft regulations — and to create regulations that, in effect, increase requirements (such as the blanket 10-year residency requirement for naturalisation that goes beyond legislative requirements).

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Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Acquisition by children, Naturalisation and Marriage
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2022