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Citizenship

The church where the bishop of a particular Christian denomination is seated is called a cathedral. Not just any big church is a cathedral – it must be the principal church in the district under the bishop’s pastoral care and jurisdiction (‘diocese’). The word, after all, comes from the Latin word for throne: cathedra.

If the town had a cathedral it was probably quite big, and thus it became a ‘city’. Historically – at least, insofar as Britain and the Commonwealth are concerned – the town could not be a ‘city’ unless it had a cathedral.

The thing about a ‘city’ – well, the other thing – is that that is where ‘citizens’ lived.1 Nowadays, we do not have to live in a city before we are citizens. The South African Citizenship Act 19952 provides for various different ways of becoming a South African citizen: by birth, descent, or naturalisation, and it also provides for ways in which to lose your citizenship. The Act is administered by the Minister of Home Affairs.

A. Deprivation of citizenship

The Minister can deprive a person of his South African citizenship on certain grounds – it can occur with naturalised citizens, or if you have dual citizenship. If this happens, the certificate of naturalisation, or any other certificate issued under the Act in relation to the status of the person concerned, must be surrendered to the Minister and cancelled. Any person who refuses, or fails on demand, to surrender any such certificate commits an offence.3

B. False representations or statements

  1. It is a criminal offence to make, for any of the purposes of the Act, any false representation or statement.4

C. Misuse of foreign citizenship

  1. If you, as a South African citizen over the age of 17 years (i.e. 18 or older – a ‘major’), enter or depart from the Republic making use of the passport of another country, you commit a criminal offence.5

  2. While in the Republic, if you as a major citizen make use of the citizenship or nationality of another country in order to gain an advantage, or avoid a responsibility or duty, you commit an offence.6

D. Certificate of citizenship

  1. The Minister may call upon any person to produce any certificate which needs to be corrected or amended to account for a change in details, and should you refuse or fail to do so on such demand, you commit a criminal offence.7
  1. Both words – ‘city’ and ‘citizens’ – come from the same Latin word civis, and from where we get a whole bunch of words in the same genre: civic, civil, civilised, civilian and so on. 

  2. As amended; the latest amendments are by Act 17 of 2010. 

  3. Section 8(3). 

  4. Section 18. 

  5. Section 26B(a). 

  6. Section 26B(b). 

  7. Section 19(3).