South African Citizenship Amendment Bill: voting; Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill: deliberations

Home Affairs

06 September 2010
Chairperson: Mr B Martins (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Home Affairs submitted its response documents to the public submissions on these two Bills. As a result of the submissions, it then suggested proposed amendments to Clauses 2, 4, 5 and 6 in the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill and to Clauses 1, 4 and 8 in the Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill.

Members queried a clause in the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill outlining conditions under which a citizen could lose their citizenship. They asked about conditions for the granting of asylum status and where recourse could be sought if an individual was dissatisfied with that process. Members asked about provisions for issuing death certificates and who had the right to report the death of an individual when seeking a death certificate. They queried the registration of children who were orphaned or who lived in remote areas and how the Department intended to tackle the problem of registering such children. Questions were raised around the National Population Register and the capturing of individual biometrics.  

The Committee approved the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill with amendments.

Meeting report

South African Citizenship Amendment Bill [B17-2010]: deliberations
Adv Deon Erasmus, Chief Director of Legal Services: Department of Home Affairs provided the Department’s response document to the public submissions. The response to submissions where there were to be no amendments to sections in the Bill had been addressed in the 31 August meeting. In this meeting he spoke about the changes that would be made.

He said the Department proposed deleting the Section 2 amendment in Clause 2 of the Bill as it created confusion on the issue of citizenship by birth for persons born outside the Republic to a parent or parents who were South African citizens.

Adv Erasmus explained amendments made to Clauses 2(4)(a) and 4(3)(a) in order to align the wording on when the right to citizenship arises.

He addressed amendments to Clause 5(f), amending Section 5(5), on the use of the word ‘marriage’ in the Bill which had been highlighted as being narrow and discriminatory. Adv Erasmus explained that in the final version of the Bill, the Department would make the language as simple as possible with regard to ‘marriage’ so that it was encompassing and non-discriminatory.

Adv Erasmus mentioned Clause 5(b), amending Section 5(1)(c) of the Act, which sought to standardise the period of residence for non-citizens before being eligible to apply for naturalised citizenship. He said that it took longer than the stipulated 180 days to finalise the granting of refugee status. He emphasised that this was due to administrative rather than legislative issues. 

On the time period required before being granted naturalisation, Mr M Mnqasela (DA) asked why the Department could not take into account the period lived in the country while the person sought refugee status. He knew of refugees who had been waiting for their refugee status for three years.

The Chairperson said that the Department seemed to be suggesting that the law on that matter was definitive and clear and if people were dissatisfied with the Department’s granting of status, they should take action against the Department.

Adv Tsietsi Sebelemetja, Director: Legal Services: Department of Home Affairs, responded that delayed granting of refugee status was an ongoing issue which was being remedied by the Department. He said that where there were outstanding issues or where the Department had failed to deliver on a request, an appeal process was instituted. The Department was working hard on expediting the awarding of status and clearing the bottleneck associated with the problem. 

The Chairperson suggested that the issues around the awarding refugee status be dealt with at another time in conjunction with the Refugees Act. This was so the Committee could focus on the Bill under discussion.

Mr Mnqasela agreed with the Chairperson.

Adv Erasmus explained the amendment to Clause 6, amending Section 6(1), with regard to the loss of citizenship for a naturalised citizen. The Department proposed adding a comma after the word “war” and “country” in order to clarify the conditions under which loss of citizenship for a naturalised citizen could be constituted.

Mr Mnqasela raised his concerns about Clause 6, saying that he was dissatisfied that someone could be deprived of their citizenship. He asked what right the Department had to take away a person’s citizenship.

The Chairperson said that the issue had been covered previously and no one would be fully satisfied with every aspect of the Bill.

Adv Erasmus said that there was a process of review where naturalised citizens who engaged in a war not supported by the Republic may apply to the Minister to retain their citizenship. The loss of citizenship was not automatically instituted and that should there be dissatisfaction with the Department’s handling of a particular case, the matter could be referred to a judicial appeal process via the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA).

Mr Gideon Hoon, Principal State Law Adviser, said his Office agreed with the Department’s view on that issue and they had certified the Bill as constitutional. 

Mr Mnqasela said that he would exercise his right to vote against the Bill as the process of approving the Bill moved forward. He voiced his dissatisfaction that it appeared that naturalised citizens were treated differently in the legislation than citizens by birth.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Mnqasela for voicing his dissent on that matter as it was constructive in the long term.

Voting on South African Citizenship Amendment Bill
Members then voted on the various Clauses in the Bill.

Members approved Clauses 1, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 without amendments.

Members approved Clause 2 with the amendments.

Members approved Clause 4 with the amendments.

Members approved Clause 5 with amendments.

Members approved Clause 6 with amendments. 

Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill [B18-2010]: deliberations
Adv Erasmus addressed the definition of ‘child born out of wedlock’ found in the Clause 1 dealing with definitions. It had been suggested in some submissions that the term was an
assault on the dignity of the minor. He said that the Department was of the view that the term ‘Child born out of wedlock” was still acceptable. The identification of the father was solely the responsibility of the mother and if the parents were not married, it may be difficult to enforce the requirement of the details of the father.

Ms Z Balindlela (COPE) commented that in African culture the term ‘child born out of wedlock’ was insulting and derogatory to women and voiced her dissatisfaction on the inclusion of the term. She added that when the term was translated into Xhosa and Zulu it would be highly insulting.

The Chairperson said to the Department that when the Bill was translated, the language used to describe this term should be clearly stated and definitive to avoid it being derogatory.

Ms H Makhuba (IFP) said that the women in the Committee had a responsibility to ensure that the wording was altered so that it was not derogatory.

The Chairperson reiterated that the Department should clarify the language in the translated versions of the Bill.

Mr Vusi Mkhize, Deputy Director General: Civic Services, DHA, replied that he welcomed the Committee’s input on the wording of that section of the Bill and the Department would duly reconsider the terminology to avoid the section being insulting.

Adv Erasmus explained the department’s position on Clause 4, amending Section 9 of the Act, which required children to be registered on the National Population Register (NPR) by their parents.

Ms Balindlela asked if the Department had consulted the census officials who dealt with the NPR with regard to registering families headed by orphaned children or people in remote areas.

Ms M Maunye (ANC) asked if the Department had adequate infrastructure to prevent possible corruption in the registering of biometrics on the NPR.

Mr Mnqasela reiterated the point raised by Ms Balindlela that some people were in such remote places that it might be difficult to register them on the NPR yet the Department had a responsibility to make an effort to register those people.

Ms Makhuba sought clarity on whether the Bill would cater for children who were not registered on the NPR due to their parents failing to do so, due to separation.

Adv Sebelemetja responded that orphaned children would be catered for and registered by the Department of Social Development according to provisions in the Children’s Act. In the case of orphaned children, the Department needed a report detailing the circumstances under which the child was found before registering them. The definition of biometrics was going to be standardised in order to make provision for the easy capturing of biometric information. The Department would be working on the finer details of what infrastructure was needed to refine the process of capturing biometric information. This would be done in a greater effort to prevent corruption and fraud. The registration of a child could be done by either the father or the mother regardless of their marital situation, the only problem being the choice of either maternal or paternal surname.

Mr Mkhize added that the issue of registering biometrics would be a “work in progress” process. He mentioned the online fingerprint verification system that the Department used to verify the identity of citizens. He explained that this system was being used nationwide and would be the basic foundation under which an individual’s identity could be verified. He explained that when a citizen applied for an identity document they were required to be registered on the system via their biometric information and their fingerprints. This meant that once they were on the system their fingerprints could be used to verify their identity should they intend to apply for a replacement identity document or a passport.    

The Chairperson said that the Department should in future send information to the Committee about its future projects, to keep members abreast of its work.

Adv Erasmus explained Clause 8, amending Section 22A, which made provision for the registration of deaths via family members of the deceased as opposed to it being solely done by undertakers or funeral parlour owners.

Mr Mnqasela sought clarity on the powers to be granted to funeral parlour owners with regard to issuing death certificates.

Ms Makhuba asked if the Bill would take notice of special circumstances where people could not be registered due to striking civil servants or other special cases.

The Chairperson said that legislation would not be able to cover every aspect of the problems that arise in special circumstances.

Adv Erasmus echoed the Chairperson’s comment that legislation could not cover every potential crisis. During the strike a toll free number was established to allow undertakers/funeral parlour owners who needed death certificates to call in and receive one upon verifying that they were genuine undertakers.

Mr Sebelemetja added that any family member was allowed to report a death and the Department would verify whether an undertaker had permission from the family of a deceased person to seek a death certificate. Where there were feuds within a family, it made the process of verifying who had the right to the corpse harder with regard to issuing a death certificate. In the case of an unnatural death, the police and forensic pathologist would be required to submit a report prior to the issuing of a death certificate.  
The Chairperson said that time had been set aside the following day to deliberate and vote on the Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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