Gigaba clarifies government's stance on dual citizenship

Malusi Gigaba says government is not considering reviewing the Citizenship Act. (David Harrison, M&G)

Malusi Gigaba says government is not considering reviewing the Citizenship Act. (David Harrison, M&G)

While some members of the ruling party might have strong views on dual citizenship, the government is not currently considering reviewing its Citizenship Act at this time.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday rubbished reports that the country is considering doing away with dual citizenship. Addressing an issue that has raised the ire of the Jewish community and South Africans abroad since it was first reported on Sunday, Gigaba said the Citizenship Act was last amended in 2009, where a provision was made that if a person chose to fight for another country, they had chosen a flag and therefore would lose their citizenship.

The weekend media reported that the ANC was reviewing the country’s dual-citizenship policy to stop South African citizens from taking up arms for the state of Israel.

According to reports, the issue to ban dual citizenship was apparently discussed at the ruling party’s July lekgotla and would come up again at its national general council. 

This after the ANC National Executive Committee’s head on International Relations, Obed Bapela, told the Sunday Times that they were assessing whether the model of dual citizenship was still needed.

Gigaba said there would never be a time when they would take an arbitrary decision on these issues. “We would always be guided by the Constitution and what is [in] the best interest of our country and our people. There is no current review of the Citizenship Act, no plans to review the Citizenship Act in so far as the home affairs department is concerned.” 

He said he was aware that the possibility of a dual citizenship ban had caused a lot of consternation and appealed for calm. In a media briefing in Parliament on Thursday, Gigaba said if those with dual citizenship chose to fight for the Israel Defense Forces, for example, they would lose their South African citizenship and that applied for other countries as well. 

“You can’t adopt an Act directed at a country, it must be generally applicable. So the principles guiding any legislation on citizenship must apply to somebody whether they are from Israel or Zimbabwe. And so the Act is clear in terms of how we approach citizenship and when does somebody denounce or lose it. If somebody decides to fight for the state of Israel, they have chosen a flag and therefore the legislation says that person would have to lose that citizenship.”

Gigaba said if the matter arose at the NGC next month, it would be discussed. But he did not see a reason why the act should be amended. He said the legislation did not apply to South African-born citizens and the difference would only be if they chose to fight for another country against South Africa. The minister emphasised that there was no review.

“If the review was aimed at tightening up certain areas, then it would make sense. But we can’t amend dual citizenship because we don’t like the state of Israel. South Africa has nothing against the people of Israel, so it would be wrong of us to amend our legislation because we believe what the state of Israel is doing against Palestine is wrong. It would set a very wrong precedent from which there could be no end.” While he stressed that he was not speaking for the ruling party, he said the issue probably arose from the international relations commission during the lekgotla when they were discussing the Palestinian question.

Strong views about Israel
“Some people might have raised strong views that the people from the state of Israel must not be able to hold dual citizenship. They may have taken that decision there or just raised their views. But there is no position of the ANC towards that effect. And if it does arise at the NGC, we will discuss it. We will engage with the matter there. The view that we will advance is still, let us not take any arbitrary decision directed at a people.”

Gigaba said some people questioned why people from Israel should continue enjoying a visa exemption to South Africa. “South Africans, particularly members of the ANC, have strong views about the struggle of the Palestinian people and others have raised the question [of visa exemption]. We are of the view that issues of visa exemptions are matters of bilateral relations between countries, they are not matters of legislation. If the ANC and Cabinet adopted the view that we need to relook at visa exemptions, we would have to do that, but there is no such decision at the moment. There is not even a discussion towards that effect,” said Gigaba. 

He said the only thing that was clear about the Citizenship Act concerns was that they arose from genuine support for the Palestinian cause. “But that does not require that we should amend the legislation just to address a particular people. Because I cannot see how you would take such a view in the legislation without it having implications for everybody else. It certainly would affect many South Africans, who I believe would approach the courts to seek recourse.  “It is a process that would create enormous problems for us.”

Addressing the issue of Europe’s migration crisis, he said the country has noted with concern the recent developments, including the thousands of people trying to cross the Euro tunnel into Britain. He slammed the European Union’s handling of the crisis. He believes that EU’s international relations and migration policies are disastrous. “Particularly as [it] encourages disruption abroad and shutting down your borders at home. That is an unsustainable way of dealing with the movement of people.”

He said there should be a better way to approach the influx of migrants rather than countries fighting over who would receive the least proportion that the other. “There needs to be a Pan-European approach. That needs to involve a constructive dialogue with Africa and the Middle East in order to deal with the source of the recent spate of movement.”

“I believe that the approach from the EU has not been adequate. The EU could have done better to deal with it rather than try to shut their borders down, refer to these migrants as swamps and promise to send sniffer dogs in order to scare them off from entering their countries.”

The ANC on Thursday also clarified their standing on dual citizenship. 

ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the party and the government had not taken a decision on the matter.  “Nor is it intending to introduce such a policy. The status-quo remains in terms of home affairs regulations on dual citizenship. 

“We want to reassure South Africans that in terms of our national policies, we are aligned with the generally accepted practice by the majority of countries in the world who recognise dual citizenship. We hope this clarity will go a long way towards resting this matter,” Kodwa said in a statement.

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