Young adults born in SA denied right to apply for citizenship

Published: 27/Feb/2020
Source: Daily Maverick (South Africa)

By Ben-Joop Venter

Citizenship as a tool of exclusion was a staple of apartheid-era oppression in South Africa. It was with this in mind that the opening words of the Freedom Charter and later the preamble of the Constitution proclaimed, ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it’.

Unlike the US or our neighbour Lesotho, South Africa does not confer citizenship simply because you were born in its territory – there must be a further tie to the country. Children born to South African citizens (whether one or both parents) are automatically citizens, and children born and registered to foreign parents who were admitted for permanent residence qualify for citizenship when they turn 18 if they have lived in South Africa their whole life.

But what about the many children born in South Africa to parents who were neither South African citizens nor foreigners admitted for permanent residence?

While the Citizenship Amendment Act of 2010 has been criticised for restricting citizenship rights, including the “midnight deprivation” of the right to citizenship  acquired under previous legislation, it took one positive step towards inclusion by broadening the category of persons eligible to apply for citizenship.

The Citizenship Amendment Act, which came into force on 1 January 2013, provided a new pathway to citizenship: children born and registered in South Africa to parents who were neither South African citizens nor permanent residents at the time of birth and who live their whole life in South Africa until they turn 18 have the right to apply for “citizenship by naturalisation”.

This progressive provision recognises the attachment and lived experience that young adults born and raised in South Africa have in their country of their birth. The provision promotes the spirit of those opening words of the Freedom Charter.

However, while the right to apply for citizenship in terms of this provision exists, there is no formal way to apply. This is because the minister of home affairs (including the six ministers who occupied that position since the Citizenship Amendment Act came into force) has not made the necessary regulations or application forms.

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Themes: Naturalisation and Marriage
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2020