A court of law has ruled that children born in South Africa to foreign nationals are not automatically granted South African citizenship. The court then denied a plea by Zimbabwean parents to have their children provided with South African birth certificates.
The parents had petitioned the Polokwane High Court to review and overturn a decision by the Department of Home Affairs to refuse to provide birth certificates to their three children.
The parents claimed that the department’s refusal was illegal, unconstitutional, and void. The parents are Zimbabwean citizens who live in South Africa. They have three kids, born between 2010 and 2016.
All of their children received full non-citizen certificates. The father stated that he was in South Africa on a work permit and that the mother of the children was his partner.
The parents had approached the government to apply for each of the children’s South African birth certificates. The fact that the children were all born in South Africa and did not have Zimbabwean citizenship or nationality motivated their appeal.
They were told that the only help they could acquire from the department was unabridged birth certificates for non-South African citizens’ children in order for them to travel to Zimbabwe and obtain Zimbabwean birth certificates from the authorities there.
The father claimed that because he worked in South Africa and the children were born there, they were automatically granted South African citizenship.
The parents claimed to be in possession of work and visitor’s visas, and all of their children were born in South Africa when their parents were in possession of such licenses.
According to the government, it is impossible to provide a South African birth certificate for citizenship where the grounds for citizenship have not been proven, as in this case, in terms of either birth or naturalisation.
The agency stated that children born to permanent residents inherit their parents’ status and that the applicants were from Zimbabwe and had not renounced their citizenship. Dual citizenship is illegal in Zimbabwe, so the applicant’s children are Zimbabwean citizens.
The agency further stated that children of permit holders could not be granted citizenship for labor allowed for that reason, or for study or vacation. Its position is that the notice of birth can be taken to the parent’s country of origin, Zimbabwe, for registration and passport issuance.
The court was told that despite the special permission dispensation granted to Zimbabwean nationals for some time, some parents had neglected to regularize their stay, putting their children at a disadvantage.
Because their children may be in the country unlawfully due to expired visas, the parents in this case failed to protect their children’s identity and nationality. According to the agency, not everyone who comes to South Africa intends to stay.
It also stated that the parents had failed to upgrade their status to that of residency, and as a result, it was unlikely that they remained permit holders after arriving in the early 2000s.
The administration asked the court to take note of the Constitutional Court’s past judgments that citizenship was more than just a legal status; it was at the heart of a person’s identity and sense of belonging.
According to the court, the fundamental premise of South African citizenship is that a child inherits the citizenship or nationality of his or her parents. If one of the parents is a South African citizen, the child is a citizen by birth.