Source: Lawyers for Human Rights (Pretoria)
Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) is in the North Gauteng Division of the High Court today, representing a stateless client in a case again the Minister and Director General of Home Affairs.
LHR’s client, Mr Khoza, is the applicant in the matter. He was born and raised in South Africa and has lived in the Republic his whole life. His birth was never registered by his parents, and at the age of 9 he was orphaned and left at a Youth Centre in Limpopo. He stayed at the Centre until he reached the age of 18. According to South African law he should have access to citizenship and documentation.
At the age of 16 he made his first attempt, with the help of the Centre, to register his birth and to apply for an identity document. The designated case manager from the Department of Social Development who handled his matter made no attempt to register his birth or obtain documentation for him. Due to the fact that the applicant’s birth was never registered, an immigration Investigation Officer from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) was assigned to investigate his case.
A report was subsequently submitted 2 years later by the Investigating Officer, concluding that Mr Khoza was born in South Africa and does not have citizenship anywhere else. Despite this, DHA refused to process his application for citizenship and did not provide him with vital documentation for his ability to access services and live productively in society.
Through no fault of his own, Mr Khoza has been deprived of birth registration and citizenship since birth, which the new constitutional dispensation centralises and strongly protects against, in Section 28(1).
The case highlights the failure of South Africa’s current legal framework in adequately addressing the issue of statelessness. The South African Citizenship Act makes provision for children who are born in South Africa, and would otherwise be stateless, to acquire citizenship by birth. The Act also makes provision for children born in South Africa from non-citizen parent(s) to acquire citizenship through naturalisation if they have lived their whole lives in the Republic until the age of 18. However, South Africa has not established or published regulations that prescribe the administrative process to follow for submitting such applications.
“The Constitutional Court in Chisuse v Director General: Department of Home Affairs emphasised that citizenship goes to the core of a person’s identity, their sense of belonging and security of person. Deprivation of, or interference with, a person’s citizenship affects many aspects of their private and public life, including that of their family” said Nothando Shongwe from LHR’s Statelessness Project. In failing to ensure that the applicant is documented he, together with thousands of other human beings, are stateless or at risk of being statelessness.
All human beings have an inherent right to human dignity – yet being undocumented results in people being treated in the most inhumane manner.
Mr Khoza finds himself in legal limbo, and this has a range of negative impacts on his life. It has resulted in continued prejudice, as he cannot study, work, get married, obtain a driver’s license, open a bank account, or access any social assistance.