South Africans holding dual nationality were given a bit of a shock on Sunday. It was announced that the ANC is set to discuss the possibility of banning dual citizenship at its general council meeting next month.
It all started last July at the ANC’s Lekgotla, when it was suggested that dual citizenship be done away with. The proposal was put forward to prevent South African citizens who hold Israeli citizenship from joining the Israeli army. As soon as the media got hold of the story, immigration experts came out firing. Most have levelled harsh criticisms at the proposed policy change, questioning not only its utility and the sincerity of its rationale, but also its constitutionality.
John Dunn, manager of Visas at 1st Contact Visas in South Africa had this to say on the potential ban on dual citizenship: “If South African dual citizenship were banned, our economy would suffer greatly. The country is currently grappling with a work force that is massively under-skilled and by disallowing internationally based South Africans to hold on to their secondary citizenship, it is feared that the country will be chasing away much-needed highly skilled individuals.”
The proposed ban could also see families torn apart. Spouses who hold both South African and foreign passports may be forced to renounce one of their passports and leave the country. In this regard Dunn drew parallels to the recent tightening of visa regulations in Britain.
“The UK Government has come under fierce criticism for its spousal visa restrictions,” he explained. “With the high number of South Africans who hold multiple passports, we predict a similar backlash should the ANC push to disallow dual nationality.”
It is likely that if the ban were enforced, many skilled South Africans living abroad would be less inclined to return home as this would jeopardise their second passport/citizenship. This would ultimately deprive South Africa of the skills these individuals have amassed in some of the world’s most competitive economies.
While it is not unheard of for countries to disallow, or severely limit dual nationality, in the case of South Africa there seems to be almost no benefit to pursuing such a draconian, needless and short-sighted nationalistic policy.