Editorial: Close dual citizenship loophole

The ANC needs to be careful not to conflate its international relations, security and immigration policies. In discussion documents to be presented at its national general council, the party again wants the dual citizenship policy to be reviewed, though it backtracked on Thursday after a public uproar.

But the head of the party’s international relations subcommittee, Obed Bapela, was earlier reported as saying the proposal was aimed at preventing Israeli-South African citizens from enlisting in the Israeli Defence Force. If this is true, tinkering with immigration policy is no solution. In the current globalised world an open citizenship policy should be encouraged. At the same time, the policy on preventing South Africans from participating in foreign wars should be etched in a rational law of general application.

We agree that South African citizens should stay out of foreign military conflicts. Hence the need to tighten the Prohibition of Mercenary Activities and Regulation of Certain Activities in Country of Armed Conflict Act. This law was initially aimed at guns-for-hire in mercenary outfits, but was later amended to include South African citizens or permanent residents enlisting “with any armed force other than the [South African] Defence Force”.

To close the loophole created by dual citizenship, the Act should require that dual citizens get authorisation from the National Conventional Arms Control Committee if they wish to fight abroad.

A problem arises, however, when such authorisation is dependent on partisan diplomatic relations. Faced with a conflict of law, the allegiance of such a person must be clear: What if his or her two countries go to war with each other? In such a situation, the committee must force the person to choose.

Regarding dual citizenship of high level officials, we caution against a blanket ban, especially if no security risk is involved. But if there are genuine security concerns, as in the appointment of the head of the armed forces, the incumbent must be strictly and exclusively a South African citizen.

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