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Dual citizenship: Bapela reluctant to call it quits

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OWN CORRESPONDENT

Bapela caused an uproar when he stated some weeks ago that the ANC would push for a change in “dual citizenship” laws – widely seen as a means of getting at “young Israelis undergoing military service in the Israeli Defence Forces”.

On Monday he conceded that the African National Congress was not ready to discuss the matter of dual citizenship at its National General Council coming up in a few weeks’ time, but at next year’s National Executive Committee the party would look at whether the matter was still relevant after studying the findings of a research team appointed to examine the issue.

The dual citizen issue had been discussed at the July ANC lekgotla, where it was decided that a research team should look into the matter.

Bapela has been outspoken regarding support for Palestine.

The SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the SA Zionist Federation had both reacted strongly to Bapela’s statement – after the lekgotla – which had created the impression that the scrapping of dual citizenship was very much on the front burner.

But Minister Gigaba had swiftly rebutted this – on behalf of the Cabinet – saying there were “absolutely” no plans to review the SA Citizenship Act with regards to dual citizenship.

On Monday Bapela – who is also a deputy minister in the Cabinet – reiterated that South Africans who use their dual citizenship to join the army in other countries were abusing the system.

“We have 4 000 British (sic) who are in the Royal services of the UK … and rightfully so because they are also citizens of Europe,” he told reporters in Johannesburg on the party’s National General Council documents.

“So is the situation in Israel where young Jewish boys are taken to their homeland and there is conscription. What in Britain is volunteer… in Israel it is conscription and they get sent to fight where there are wars and obviously with us we are still (sic) for a Palestinian cause.”

There are thousands upon thousands of people living in South Africa with permanent residence, who also hold foreign passports.

“The status quo remains in terms of Home Affairs regulations on dual citizenship,” ANC national spokesman Zizi Kodwa said earlier this month – just after Bapela’s comments were a front page story in the Sunday Times.

“We want to reassure South Africans that in terms of our national policies, we are aligned with the generally accepted practice by the majority of countries in the world who recognise dual citizenship.”

There was “absolutely” no review of the SA Citizenship Act with regards to dual citizenship, Gigaba said.

“I must emphasise that there would never be a time when we take an arbitrary decision on these issues. We will always be guided by the Constitution,” he told journalists.

On Bapela’s concerns that South African citizens were fighting in the Israel Defence Forces, Gigaba said: “I am aware this has caused a lot of consternation among people, and we would appeal for calm so that nobody should feel that views expressed by any chairperson or committee necessarily reflect the views of government and Cabinet.”

The ANC, he emphasised, had no position to this effect.

“At present… the arguments [on this call] are not clear. The only thing that is clear is that it arises out of our general support for the Palestinian cause.”

The act was last amended in 2009 and addressed those taking up arms for another country.

“We also made a provision in the amendment that if you fight for another country, you have chosen another flag and therefore you will lose your South African citizenship.”

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