Constitutional citizenship in South Africa

Published: 5/Oct/2010
Source: International Journal of Constitutional Law

Klaaren, Jonathan (2010). “Constitutional citizenship in South Africa”, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol.8, No.1, pp. 94-110.


The South African concept of constitutional citizenship draws on national and African traditions in addition to its firm grounding in international law. Furthermore, as drafted, it crystallizes the potential to ground national citizenship within a global order. This potential remains apparent in the interpretations of constitutional citizenship offered, thus far, in South Africa’s democracy in the doctrinal fields of equality and socioeconomic rights, diplomatic protection, and the right to vote. In each of those fields, the dominant interpretation is that of lawful residence citizenship, while the opposing view is that of republican citizenship. In equality and socioeconomic rights, the Constitutional Court has followed the relatively clear constitutional text and interpreted citizenship, essentially, to include those with permanent residence. In diplomatic protection, the Court has taken as its touchstone international practice but, nonetheless, has moved ahead of that criterion to articulate a doctrine with considerably more power than seen elsewhere. Finally, in a series of right-to-vote cases, with neither a clear text nor external practice on which to base itself, the Court has cautiously tilted in favor of a concept of citizenship consistent with a globalizing world.

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Themes: Acquisition of nationality, Loss and Deprivation of Nationality
Regions: South Africa
Year: 2010