Pretoria - A Cuban mother has turned to the Pretoria High Court in desperation as her 5-year-old daughter, who was born in South Africa, is at present a stateless person without any rights, as both the South African and Cuban governments refuse to grant her citizenship.
Because her parents left Cuba in 2005 – three years before she was born – and never returned to that country, Cuba regards them now as “permanent immigrants” to South Africa.
In terms of Cuban legislation, Cubans who leave the country for more than 11 months automatically lose their citizenship.
Home Affairs in South Africa also refuses to grant the child citizenship, and this has rendered the child stateless.
This, says her mother, who is only identified as KG in court papers so as to protect her child, only identified as DG, deprives her of several rights.
This will especially be prejudicial to her as she gets older, as it impacts on her right to education, to open bank accounts and to access a range of other social services and rights which are afforded to a South African citizen because she does not have an identity number and related documentation.
The mother told the court Home Affairs was ignorant of the law, as there was a clause in the act which made provision for DG and other children in her situation to be afforded South African citizenship.
In terms of this act any person born in South Africa would be a citizen of this country if the child’s birth was registered here and the child did not hold any other citizenship.
The mother asked the court to set aside the Home Affairs refusal to register DG as a South African citizen and to enter her name into the National Population Register.
The court ordered Home Affairs to hand over to the registrar of the court within five days all the documents relating to its decision not to grant DG citizenship so that the matter could be considered by the court.
Although Home Affairs noted its opposition to the application, it did not file any reasons for this.
The mother, meanwhile, said in court papers that Home Affairs officials seemed to have no clear application procedure and limited knowledge about the provisions of the law in terms of which citizenship in these circumstances could be granted.
She said this application was also brought on behalf of all the other stateless children who were unable to go to court.
The parents did register DG’s birth with Home Affairs, but the department said it could not issue them with an ID number, as they (the parents) were foreigners. The Cuban embassy also refused to register her.
The mother said they were shocked as their daughter was now stateless and they had tried everything they could to obtain South African citizenship for her.
This had come to nothing, as Home Affairs had first lost the documentation in this regard, then resubmitted it as an application for “naturalisation”.
The mother said it was at first unclear whether this application ever reached the system, as Home Affairs simply did not respond to the application.
The department said about a year later that this application had been rejected.
The mother eventually, in 2011, became a permanent resident of South Africa and she thought it would now be easier to obtain citizenship for her daughter, but this did not help.
Home Affairs said the child was no longer regarded as stateless, as she could be issued with a permit for permanent residence through her mother.
“Although the child also qualifies for permanent residence, she is first and foremost a citizen by birth,” the mother told the court.
In spite of a five-month battle for citizenship, the last response (last April) from Home Affairs on the matter was that it was receiving “attention”.