Big win for thousands of South Africans stripped of their citizenship

 ·14 Jun 2023

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) says that laws that strip South Africans of citizenship should they obtain citizenship in another country are inconsistent with the constitution.

Gary Moore, a Senior Researcher at the Free Market Foundation, previously noted that thousands of South Africans were being stripped of their citizenship, with some not even knowing.

Section 6(1) of the Citizenship Act states that South Africans will automatically lose their citizenship in South Africa should they obtain citizenship in another country, which is a continuation of apartheid law.

However, according to the constitution, no South African may be stripped of their citizenship.

In addition, doing so would violate other rights enshrined in the Constitution, such as the right to vote, the right to reside in South Africa, the right to stand for public office and the right to choose any occupation.

South Africans who wanted to retain their South African citizenship would have to apply to the Minister of Home Affairs for permission to do so.

Although the matter was taken to the Pretoria High Court, Judge Jody Kollapen upheld section 6(1).

Kollapen said that the right not to be deprived of citizenship in the Bill of Rights was aimed at preventing statelessness; however, since the person would receive citizenship in another country, they would not technically be stateless.

Moore said that the judge’s interpretation was flawed as section (8(2)) of the Act allows the minister to deprive South Africans of their citizenship in the interest of the public or if they are sentenced to prison for a year or more.

Moreover, despite the applicant saying that South Africans are unaware of the law, Kollapen said that South Africans looking to emigrate should familiarize themselves with the necessary laws – ignoring the possibility that some may just want a second passport for easier travel.

SCA ruling

The SCA agreed with Moore’s sentiments by declaring section 6(1)(a) of the South African Citizenship Act as inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.

As per the judgement, citizens who lost their citizenship since the operation of 6(1)(a) in 1995 are deemed not to have lost their citizenship.

The SCA said that the minister’s power is too vague and undefined in relation to the retention of the fundamental right to citizenship.

The judge also ordered that the applicant’s legal costs be paid by the Department of Home Affairs.

“It doesn’t belong in our constitutional democracy. If the ANC is serious about ridding our legislation of apartheid statutes, they will not appeal this judgment,” the DA, the applicant in the SCA case, said.

Should the ANC appeal the decision, the matter will go to the constitutional court.

The SCA’s judgment can be found below:

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