Stateless for a year as Gigaba dawdles - man prevented from attending mom's funeral

Malusi Gigaba.
Malusi Gigaba.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER

A family of three has been stateless for a year as a result of the Home Affairs Department not finalising their South African citizenship.

The father could not visit India when his mother got ill last year nor when she passed away in March this year because the permanent resident ID he has does not allow him to apply for a passport. They had renounced their Indian citizenship as part of their procedure to become naturalised South Africans.

In 2016‚ minister Malusi Gigaba imposed a new regulation that required immigrants to attend a naturalisation ceremony‚ similar to citizenship ceremonies held in the US‚ the United Kingdom and Australia. The latest ceremony was meant to take place in November 2017‚ but due to the various cabinet reshuffles it was cancelled at the last minute.

There has not been a naturalisation ceremony since February 2017‚ meaning no one has been naturalised to South African citizenship in more than a year.

The man‚ who asked not to be named for fears of reprisal‚ his wife and their son received a letter conditionally approving their applications to be South African citizens in May last year.

In that letter‚ the department asked them to submit proof of renunciation of their Indian citizenship to finalise the issuing of citizen certificates. “On receipt of this document‚ you will be requested to sign the Declaration of Allegiance‚ whereafter your South African citizenship will be finalised‚” the letter from the department read.

The family renounced their Indian citizenship the same month and they have been waiting for the issuing of their South African citizen certificates ever since.

This means that the man has not been able to travel outside South Africa since. He has a permanent residency ID and as such is unable to apply for a passport.

“Since [May 2017] the only thing we heard from the department is ‘we are waiting for the minister to announce the date’. In November we got a phone call that the induction would be on November 14 and November 22 would be the date of the ceremony. We attended the induction but unfortunately they cancelled the ceremony‚” the man said.

He said in November‚ his mother’s health deteriorated - he could not visit India. He tried calling a number of officials but the answer he received was that they were waiting for the minister to announce the date.

“I even went to the Indian embassy for assistance‚ and they told me I was no longer their citizen. Very sadly my mother passed away on March 1.”

He said he was still waiting for a miracle that Gigaba would announce a date.

“My son now needs to travel for sports. He has been selected for a hockey tournament representing his school in Singapore and Malaysia at the end of the year‚ but I am not sure whether he will make it.

“It is difficult to explain to him why he [may not be able to] go‚” the man said.

Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete could not be reached for comment.

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