South African Citizenship Amendment Bill [B17-2010]; Births and Registration Amendment Bill [B18-2010]: Minister of Home Affairs briefing

NCOP Health and Social Services

11 October 2010
Chairperson: Ms R Rasmeni (ANC; North West)
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Meeting Summary

The Minister noted that during debate on these two Bills in the National Assembly, it was highlighted that a clause was unclear as to whether it included citizens by birth or only citizens by naturalization where citizens fighting in a war under a flag which South Africa opposed would lose their South African citizenship. The Department would simplify the clause to carry the same intention but with clarity that only citizens by naturalization would lose their citizenship if they fought a war under another country’s flag.

Members of the Committee asked what had been done to address the problem of foreigners living in South Africa with fraudulent identity documents and passports, whether a citizen by birth who had fought in a war under another country’s flag could return to South Africa, how communication could be improved between the DHA and the public, how provincial forums would assist with non-compliance and how dual citizenship would be addressed. Members also asked for clarification on application for naturalization, on the procedure for declaration of death when the deceased was not registered in South Africa and on the laws governing citizenship and birth registration when foreigners married South African citizens and had a child.

Meeting report

South African Citizenship Amendment Bill
Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Minister of Home Affairs, said that the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill sought to align and simplify legislation in terms of ‘who had citizenship of South Africa (SA), how citizenship was obtained and how citizenship could be used’. 

Whether a child was born inside or outside the country, the child had the right to receive SA citizenship provided that one parent was a SA citizen and that the child was registered on the SA population register at birth. A baby registered in SA with no parents and no known citizenship would be considered a citizen by birth. If a baby was not South African but was adopted by South African parents, it would be registered and considered a South African citizen by descent. If there were no parents, next of kin would be allowed to register the child within the regulations. Parents were required to register their children within 30 days. Registration for children later in life, when parents had not registered their children at all, was complicated.

When a child was born in SA to non-South African parents, who had temporary or work permits only, the child would take on the citizenship of the parents. If a child grew up and stayed in SA until 18 years old or older and knew no other country, it was only fair to allow that person the opportunity to apply for naturalization and then become a SA citizen. Permanent residents who had lived in SA for five years of more could also apply for naturalization.

There was an anomaly in the current SA legislation, where dual citizenship was allowed irrespective of whether the other country allowed it or not. A Swazi national could also be a South African citizen but Swazi law did not allow dual citizenship. All SA’s neighbours did not allow dual citizenship which meant that dual citizens could live outside SA but claim pension and other government grants from SA. This impacted on SA’s economy. Thus, the new law would include that if dual citizenship was not reciprocal, the original citizenship would have to be renounced.

Any citizen by naturalization who fought in a war under a flag which SA opposed, would lose their citizenship. Naturalization was a privilege, not a right and therefore they were expected to abide by their new country’s policies. Debate in the National Assembly had suggested that the clause caused ambiguity as to whether it included citizens by birth or not. On reconsideration, the Minister agreed that it was not clear. The Department would simplify the clause with the same intention but with more clarity.


Mr W Faber (DA, Northern Cape) asked what would be done about SA citizens who had fought in war under the flag of another country and then tried to return to SA.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that war had implications for the security of a country. Such a person could not argue that they had nowhere to go after the war, as the country would have accepted that person as a soldier. If he was naturalized in SA it would be expected that he would be accepted by his original country. He would be allowed to visit SA but would no longer be a SA citizen. This did not apply to SA citizens who were naturalized by birth and had nowhere else to go.

Ms B Mncube (ANC, Gauteng) asked if when the new Act came into effect, all those who previously had dual citizenship would be required to comply with the Act, or if compliance would include new dual citizens only.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma replied that those who applied for dual citizenship when they knew that their own country did not allow it were doing something illegal in the first place. They needed to be reminded that if they wanted to be South African citizens, they would have to renounce their other citizenship. If they refused, SA would discontinue their citizenship in SA.

Ms M Boroto (ANC,
Mpumalanga) asked if the issue of marriage for citizenship would be discussed and where this would fall under the categories of citizenship.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that a baby born in SA to one South African parent was considered South African but the problem for DHA was the other parent, who had offered money in return for marriage. There was no law that could be put in place to stop South Africans from doing this. DHA was introducing an unusual amendment which stated that if a baby was registered at birth with one father and then later another father claimed to be the father, he had to produce proof of paternity. 

Immigration was currently tightening laws as SA was issuing Relative Permits - two-year visitor’s visas - to men who made SA women pregnant. This was encouraging tourists to fall in love within 30 days. Citizens needed to be educated and to understand the value of their own lives and the implication on their children’s lives. If they made decisions for the sake of a foreigner becoming a citizen, no law could assist.

Ms D Rantho, (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if people in SA who had lived near the Eastern Cape/Lesotho border for 40 to 60 years but were born in Lesotho could be granted naturalization certificates, even though they did not have birth or identity certificates. 

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that if they had lived in SA for that long they could apply for naturalization as they had given their lives to SA. The problem was when they lived in Lesotho and crossed over the border to SA for pensions and government grants.

Ms Rantho commented that there were discrepancies in the understanding of naturalization for citizens by area managers in the Eastern Cape Department of Home Affairs and people were taking advantage of the confusion. Fraudulence was rife.

Mr Faber asked what action had been done to address the problem of immigrants living in South Africa with fraudulent identity documents and passports.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma replied that the reason that forums were in place in the provinces was to deal with such issues. Sometimes the confusion was deliberate as some officials knowingly bent the law, but it was also understandable that officials would not know whether the applicant had arrived in SA that morning or had been living in SA for 30 years. Reliable forums in the community would investigate and ascertain each case and DHA would comply with the forum. On 18 October, the forums in the Eastern Cape would meet with DHA to discuss how it would assist DHA with identifying legitimate naturalization applicants. DHA planned to tackle the problems in the Eastern Cape which were the worst in the country. The new Act would assist with naturalization of those who were 18 years old and had lived in SA since birth and also with solving the existing problems of citizenship for those who were not registered at birth.

Prince M Zulu (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) commented that the fact that DHA was in Pretoria and not in the provinces meant that education of South African people did not reach the provinces. It was time to educate the people of SA.

Births and Deaths Registration Amendment Bill
The Minister said that this was a simple amendment and there had been no disputes during the debate in the National Assembly. The issue of ‘who registered the child’ needed attention and this had been discussed briefly earlier in the presentation. Ideally, by keeping to the law - registering babies within 30 days - problems would be much reduced. Children who did not have birth certificates and had no parents, could have their birth registered by next of kin, a legal guardian, foster parent, or social worker. Abandoned children were a problem as the child had absolutely no identity and social workers had to decide on a name for that child and register them. DHA was amending the registration of the birth of an adopted child to include special provisions for their registration.

Relatives were the best people to register the death of a family member, but increasingly people were using undertakers to take care of everything. DHA had made it a requirement that undertakers had to be registered before registering a death, as often they were fly-by-night operators who could not be contacted when required.

Ms Rantho asked if someone who died in SA would be registered as dead in SA when they did not have SA citizenship.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that the main reason to register a death was to declare that person dead on the population register. The other reason was to facilitate their burial. If someone was listed on the population register, they were given a death certificate. If they were not listed on the population register, they would still be issued a death certificate as evidence of their death and that they died in SA and they could be buried in SA, but the death would not be recorded on the population register.

Ms Mncube commented that a radical advocacy campaign had to be stepped up together with the introduction of the provincial forums to educate foreigners and locals in the rural communities on the processes and procedures around registration of births.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said that whether province-by-province or on a national level, communication with provinces was a priority for the DHA. It was not uncommon to see a parent and baby waiting in a long queue at DHA when the baby could have been registered at the hospital.

Ms Mncube asked what the strategy was to deal with foreigners who had no legal documentation, where for example, they lived in an informal settlement which received government housing.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said many foreigners had acquired fraudulent documentation very cheaply but the implications were very expensive. DHA was catering for this, starting with Zimbabweans, by offering them amnesty for voluntarily returning their fraudulent documents and registering themselves in SA. This also involved identifying what they acquired while under false citizenship, such as passports, firearms and property. They could keep what they were entitled to own but a letter would be issued stating who they were and their true nationality at the time of purchase. If they had no reason to be in SA, they would be required to return to their home country. If they were working or schooling, they would be given a permit. Immigration was amending its laws to toughen sentencing for fraudulent citizenship.

The meeting was adjourned.


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