Court or­der on cit­i­zen­ship af­fects many

Daily Dispatch - - News - By ADRI­ENNE CARLISLE

DOORS will open for a des­per­ate lit­tle boy who was born in Le­sotho after the Gra­ham­stown High Court or­dered the Home Af­fairs De­part­ment to grant him South African cit­i­zen­ship.

Home Af­fairs re­fused to reg­is­ter lit­tle Xolani (not his real name) as a South African cit­i­zen, al­though he has a South African fa­ther.

Xolani was born in Le­sotho, where his mother is a cit­i­zen. The court has or­dered that nei­ther the lit­tle boy nor his fam­ily may be iden­ti­fied.

The case, which the Le­gal Re­sources Cen­tre (LRC) in Gra­ham­stown was in­stru­men­tal in bring­ing, is an in­ter­est­ing one as it was brought not just on the fam­ily’s be­half, but also for all par­ents or guardians in a sim­i­lar po­si­tion.

In a broad or­der, the Gra­ham­stown High Court has in­structed that any child born out­side South Africa but who has a South African par­ent is a South African cit­i­zen by birth in terms of the Cit­i­zen­ship Act, re­gard­less of the cit­i­zen­ship of the other par­ent.

This means Xolani, who is now eight years old and fi­nally a South African cit­i­zen, can ac­cess a sub­sidised ed­u­ca­tion, health­care and ac­cess to so­cial as­sis­tance, such as a child-care grant.

Ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers, the lit­tle boy moved to Port El­iz­a­beth shortly after his birth to be with his fa­ther, as his mother was fi­nan­cially un­able to care for him in Le­sotho. His fa­ther also lacks what he termed “fi­nan­cial mus­cle” and re­quired as­sis­tance in terms of so­cial grants and ac­cess to a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion for his son.

But Home Af­fairs re­fused to reg­is­ter his birth or grant him cit­i­zen­ship, say­ing he was only en­ti­tled to per­ma­nent res­i­dency.

The case is one of many in which the LRC is fo­cus­ing on the im­pli­ca­tions of South African chil­dren be­ing de­nied ac­cess to var­i­ous ben­e­fits be­cause their births were never reg­is­tered.

In an­other mat­ter, the Gra­ham­stown LRC, Phakamisa High School in Port El­iz­a­beth, to­gether with the Cen­tre for Child Law, have chal­lenged the Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment’s de­ci­sion to stop fund­ing school pupils who do not have a South African iden­tity num­ber.

The LRC says an an­nounce­ment was made in March last year that fund­ing schools for ev­ery­thing from teacher salaries to the Na­tional School Nu­tri­tion Pro­gramme and text­books would be based on pupil num­bers. Only pupils with South African iden­ti­ties, pass­ports and per­mit num­bers cap­tured in the SA Schools Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Man­age­ment Sys­tem would count. Dozens of schools with chil­dren whose births were not reg­is­tered have been af­fected.

The LRC will ar­gue that this is a vi­o­la­tion of the chil­dren’s con­sti­tu­tional rights to ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, dig­nity, equal­ity, nu­tri­tion and non-dis­crim­i­na­tion.

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