Citizenship rights and a Faulty law #GuptaLeaks

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Publications: Business Day Live

 

 

Inconsistencies in the way South African citizenship rights are managed appear to be making citizenship more of a lucky draw than a legal process, says Stefanie de Saude, of De Saude Attorneys, in an analysis in Business Day. She points out that the Constitution explicitly states in section 20: ‘No citizen may be deprived of citizenship.’ Despite this, South African citizens who have emigrated from South Africa and have subsequently acquired a foreign nationality, have often lost their South African status because they adopted new citizenship without the prior written consent of the Minister. While South Africa is one of many countries that allows for dual as well as multiple nationality, section 6(1)(a) of the South African Citizenship Act states that an adult South African will lose his/her South African citizenship status should he/she acquire the citizenship of another country by some ‘voluntary and formal act’ (other than marriage) without the Minister’s consent. Unfortunately, says De Saude, they did not know they were required to do this. She adds this section of the Act may contravene both the Constitution and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights – because nowhere in the Act are the words ‘voluntary and formal act’ defined. She adds the Department of Home Affairs does not follow a specific protocol to determine whether such a ‘voluntary and formal act’ has taken place or whether it could result in a loss of citizenship. Furthermore, section 3(1)(b)(i) of the Act – as amended – states that biological descendants of South African citizens of any age living abroad are automatically conferred with citizenship. ‘But in practice, if the foreign birth is not registered with the relevant SA mission in the foreign country within 30 days of the foreign birth, the child loses its right to SA citizenship status.’