Home Affairs says children of refugees must speak an official language to gain SA citizenship

Home Affairs Minister , Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. File Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Home Affairs Minister , Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. File Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Jun 28, 2023


Pretoria - Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has gazetted new regulations under the South African Citizenship Act which state that children born to refugees or asylum-seekers, will have to speak at least one official language if they want South African citizenship.

The South African Citizenship Act governs naturalisation applications, including those from refugees and asylum seekers.

The new regulations came into effect on June 12, 2023.

When applying, applicants should be older than 18.

An application form was included in the regulations.

Amongst other things, the application form must be accompanied by an original copy of their parent's asylum seeker, visa or refugee status, a school report or letter from the principal where the child is registered for Grade 1, proof of residence since birth, biometrics of the applicant, and proof of knowledge of one of the official languages of South Africa.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria declared Motsoaledi’s decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid.

The ruling was made after the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) challenged Motsoaledi’s decision, announced last year, to discontinue the special dispensation.

ZEP holders had about six months before their documentation to live and work in South Africa expired, and about 180,000 Zimbabwean nationals living in the country would have been affected.

The ZEP is a special permit that grants its holders and their children temporary legal status to live, work, and study in South Africa.

This was introduced by the government to cope with the influx of undocumented Zimbabweans.

In a judgment handed down by three judges, it was held that Motsoaledi had made no attempt to get representations from those affected before he took the decision.

It was also found that his inability to consult with ZEP holders rendered the choice to end the program procedurally unfair and irrational.

The court directed Motsoaledi to follow a fair process that complies with the law.

Following the judgment, permits will remain valid until June 2024.

Until then, ZEP holders will continue to enjoy protection, including the prohibition on deportation-related arrest and detention.