In 1970, the South African government made every “African” a citizen of one of the homelands. The way the government decided which homeland people “belonged” to, was by the language they spoke.
But people did not lose their South African citizenship. They were citizens of South Africa and “their” homeland at the same time. Then, in the late 70s and early 80s, four of the homelands agreed to become “independent” and the people who the government called citizens of those homelands lost their South African citizenship;
Some of those people can get their South African citizenship back if they apply. Others cannot. This article talks about which people can get their South African citizenship back..
Belinda Magubane was born in Cape Town 42 years ago and lived there all her life. She is, you could say, a South African through and through. Or so she thought.
Belinda lost her South African citizenship on 4 December 1981, when the Ciskei became “independent”. She was made a citizen of the Ciskei because she speaks Xhosa and her parents were born in a village in the Ciskei.
Belinda did not want to become a Ciskei citizen. But, like all the other millions of people living in the so-called “independent” homelands, nobody asked Belinda what she wanted.
Many of the eight million people in the TBVC states — Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei — held protest after protest. In the end, the South Africa government was forced to pass a law in 1986 called the Restoration of South African Citizenship Act. The law gave some people — but not everybody — the right to become South African citizens again. (People who come from — or live in — the non-“independent” homelands of Qwa-Qwa, KaNgwane, Gazankulu, Lebowa and KwaZulu are still South African citizens.)
We are confident that most — if not all — the information in this article will soon no longer apply and Learn and Teach will not have to write articles like this one. We are moving closer and closer towards our goal of a non-racial, democratic and unitary South Africa. When we achieve this goal, there will be no more homelands and all the people of our country will be South African citizens, with South African ID books and passports.
In the meantime, there are three main ways people who lost their citizenship can get it back: by birth, by descent and by registration. We will explain each of them.
CITIZENSHIP BY BIRTH
To become a South African citizen by birth, you must have been born in South Africa and you must have lived as a permanent resident in South Africa.
If you were born in one of the TBVC states after it got “independence”, then the South Africa government says you were not born in South Africa. You cannot get South Africa citizenship by birth.
But if you were born in South Africa in any place except in the TBVC states or you were born in one of the TBVC states before it became “independent”, then the government says you were born in South Africa. These are the dates of “independence” of the TBVC states:
Ciskei 4 December 1981 Transkei 26 October 1976 Bophuthatswana — 6 December 1977 Venda 13 September 1979.
Permanently resident in South Africa means that you live all the time, or nearly all the time, in South Africa. You are permanently resident:
if you were permanently resident in South Africa before 1 July 1986 and you have been permanently resident in South Africa since the date of “independence” of “your” homeland.
It does not matter where you lived in South Africa, or how much you moved around — as long as you did not live in one of the TBVC states after “independence”.
You are also permanently resident:
if you had Section 10 (1) (a), (b) or (c) rights under the old pass laws
if you bought or rented a house in a “black area” outside the TBVC states
if you were a migrant worker and you left a homeland on a contract before the date of “independence” and you stayed on to work in South Africa.
NOTE: If you went to one of the TBVC states for holidays, you are still a permanent resident of South Africa.
Example: Albert Ligege was born in Sibasa in Venda in 1956, 23 years before Venda got “independence”. He lived in Venda until 1985, when he came to Pretoria to get a job. Albert can get his South African citizenship because he was born in a homeland before the date of “independence” and he has been permanently resident in South Africa since before 1 July 1986.
CITIZENSHIP BY DESCENT
If you were born in one of the TBVC states after “independence”, you can still get South African citizenship if one of your parents was a South African citizen.
To get citizenship by descent you must prove:
that you are under 21 years and you have never married
that one of your parents has South African citizenship by birth
that you came to South Africa before July 1986
that you were permanently resident in South Africa before 1 July 1986
Here is an example: Brenda Molefe was born in Hammanskraal in Bophuthatswana in 1978, one year after “independence”.
Brenda’s mother is a cleaner. She was born in Soweto but went to her husband’s home in Hammanskraal when she got married. Brenda was born there.
In 1982, Brenda’s parents got divorced and her mother came back to Soweto with Brenda. So Brenda has been living in South Africa since before July 1986. Brenda is only 12 now, so she is too young to get an ID book. But when Brenda is 16, she can apply for a South African ID book because she has been permanently resident in South Africa since before 1 July 1986, her mother is a South African citizen and Brenda has never married.
CITIZENSHIP BY REGISTRATION
You can get back your South African citizenship by registration if you can prove:
that you came into South Africa after the date of “independence” of “your” homeland but before July 1986
that you lived in South Africa full time for a whole year before you apply for an ID book
that you lived in South Africa for at least another 4 years out of 8 years before you applied for your ID book.
Here is an example: Joseph Fulani was born in the Transkei in 1952, before the date of Transkei’s “independence”. So Joseph was a South African citizen. When the Transkei became “independent” in 1976, Joseph lost his South African citizenship. In 1982, Joseph left the Transkei and went to find work in the Western Cape.
In 1988 Joseph went to the Home Affairs Office to apply for a South African ID. He wanted to become a citizen by registration. He took his birth certificate to show that he was born in the Transkei in 1952. The company he worked for gave him a letter saying that he had worked for them since 1982.
Joseph proved that he lived in South Africa for a whole year before he applied for his ID book — 1987. He had also lived in South Africa for another 5 years. So Joseph can get South African citizenship.
If you are the child of a person who became a South African citizen by registration, you can also become a citizen by registration. You must prove :
that you have never been married
that you are lawfully and permanently resident in South Africa
HOW TO APPLY FOR A SOUTH AFRICAN ID BOOK
You must be sixteen years old (or older).
Take any proof of where you were born and where you have lived and worked to the nearest Home Affairs Office. This means your birth certificates, baptism certificates, school certificates, house permits and Section 10 (1) (a) or (b) stamps from your old pass book.
If you do not have ail of these, don’t worry. You can still get the ID book. Sometimes, Home Affairs officials say that if you do not have a house permit, you cannot get an ID book. This is not true. You do not need a house permit to live lawfully in South Africa.
At the Home Affairs Office, show all the proof you have. You must then fill in some forms. If your application is granted, you will have to sign a form. You are a South African citizen from the date that you sign the form.
OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Residence permits: TBVC citizens do not need a permanent residence permit or a temporary residence permit to live in South Africa. Sometimes, government officials say that a TBVC citizen must get a residence permit to live in South Africa. This is not true.
Work permits: TBVC citizens do not need work permits to live in South Africa. Sometimes, officials and even employers tell workers to get a work permit. You do not need a work permit to work in South Africa.
UIF: TBVC citizens can claim UIF in South Africa if they are unemployed or on maternity leave. There is no law that TBVC must go to the homelands if they lose their jobs.There is no law that TBVC citizens can only claim UIF in their homeland. You have the right to stay in South Africa and to claim UIF here.
NOTE: If you think that you have enough proof to get your South African citizenship back, but you are having problems with the clerks at the Home Affairs offices, you should get help.
You can go to an advice office like the Black Sash or to a Legal Resources Centre.
* Most of the information in this article is taken from a book called “Your Guide to Farm Workers and the Law, Book 2” There are two books, Book 1 and Book 2. Both books have lots of information about pensions, UIF, evictions and other legal rights that is important for all people, not just farmworkers. You can buy the books by sending a R6 postal order for each book to
The Black Sash 5 Long Street Mowbray 7700
2nd Floor, Khotso House 62 Marshall Street Johannesburg 2000