Many South Africans who move elsewhere to work lose their South African citizenship without even knowing it. This is because there is an obscure law that requires you to report to the Home Office very early in the process of getting another passport. Dr Rory Jubber, Leader of the Democratic Alliance Abroad, explains how South Africans from all demographics – and many health professionals and health workers – find well-paying jobs elsewhere, but it does is done at the cost of South African citizenship. The DA has taken this issue to court; a judge is expected to rule in the next month or so. – Jackie Cameron
Dr Rory Jubber on citizens complaining about loss of South African citizenship:
For many years the Democratic Alliance Abroad (before my tenure as leader) received complaints from citizens about going to a consular office or Home Office office in London, are attempting to renew South African citizenship – only to find out that they are no longer South African citizens because they have claimed additional citizenship. The reason is that under the current South African Citizenship Law, you must first apply to the Home Office for permission to obtain another citizenship.
If you don’t, you are essentially deprived of your South African citizenship. You are no longer a South African citizen. The problem is that not all citizens were aware of it. In fact, it seems to number in the thousands – citizens who left and were granted additional citizenship, then suddenly found out that they are no longer South African citizens.
On whether they can regain their citizenship:
Technically, yes. But they should go back to South Africa [and live here] for a moment. You still have the right to permanent residence, but you are no longer a South African citizen.
On the importance of retaining citizenship while working outside South Africa:
I think there are several factors to this. It is above all a question of identity. People identify as South Africans. The passport, in many ways, means it to them. It is a question of citizenship that you were born with. People feel they have a right to this citizenship. The second point is [that] there are certain rights and privileges that come with citizenship. For example, a big one is [that] citizens abroad are allowed to vote in South African national elections. The problem is that the IC requires that if you want to vote abroad at an embassy or at the South African High Commission, you must produce both an ID and a passport.
If dual nationality has been taken away from you, it is clear that you are no longer able to vote. The main reason it is brought to court is that it ensures that we can get the case heard in the most rational way, to look at the arguments and try to force the Home Office to change the how he treats South Africans abroad. By appealing to the fact that certain sections of the Citizenship Act are unconstitutional, that they effectively take citizenship away from people – often without their knowledge.
We took the matter to the High Court a few Mondays ago. He was heard by the High Court and we are currently awaiting a judgment. Hopefully we will have it in the next few months to six weeks. I am relatively optimistic. The argument put forward by the Democratic Alliance is, I think, very strong. It is very well arranged. It is very clear why sections of the law that deprive people of their citizenship are unconstitutional. The DA has the well-known position of being able to advocate on behalf of citizens for their rights.
Why is the government doing this:
There have been a lot of skills lost to the rest of the world from all demographics – and increasingly from all demographics. South Africa should seek to maintain its links with these citizens, in the hope that the economic climate improves a bit – or through some incentive programs – you can get these citizens to come and help and support this effectively. which is a failing economy.
I think it is in the interest of the South African state. It should be seen as a good thing – you want to keep these people tied. I’m going to give you an example. In the early 2000s, the NHS (the National Health Care Service in the UK) went to South Africa and kicked out nurses from South Africa. There are thousands of South African nurses – mostly from poor backgrounds – living in the UK, working in the NHS because the pay they were offered was so good [that it was difficult to turn down.]
What is happening is that many of these people have received numerous complaints from nurses that they are losing their citizenship. Some of them want to go back to South Africa – yes, I know they have permanent residency, but that comes with all kinds of conditions. It makes things a little more sticky and difficult. Surely you want to keep these people interested in South Africa. Bring them back, especially at a time when the health department is in such dire straits. We must encourage the return of these people.
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