Legislation to address citizenship gap for illegal SA citizens

*Fiona, a talented athlete and high school graduate, is considered a ‘ghost citizen’ of Namibia.

Her parents are part of a group of South African descendants who decided to remain in Namibia after the country gained independence.

Despite their long-term residence and contributions to society, she does not meet the criteria for citizenship under the country’s existing regulations because of her parents’ failure to register her at birth.

Fiona has agreed to speak to The Namibian, but prefers to remain anonymous for fear of deportation.

She says she was born in 2003 at a local hospital in the Erongo region to South African parents.

She only has a hospital card to show that she was born in Namibia.

Fiona’s parents came to Namibia, then South West Africa (SWA), in the mid-1980s.

Her father, who died months after her birth, was part of a group of harbour workers repairing vessels.

“My mother is South African, and her documents are in order. She has been trying to get my documents sorted out for years.

When I was 14, she was told I am in the country illegally and must leave . . . My home is Namibia,” she says. Temba Nghitaunapo, a former head of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security in the Erongo region, says this situation is common at Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.

“People must just learn to approach the ministry as opposed to hiding from the authorities,” he says.


Executive director of home affairs, immigration, safety and security Etienne Maritz says the ministry will be able to assist people like Fiona, but not those born in South Africa, because they do not meet the requirements.

“We can only register the births of those who are born in Namibia,” he says. Maritz says the ministry has drafted two pieces of legislation to cater to South Africans who came to Namibia in the 1980s and missed the one-year deadline at independence, allowing them to renounce citizenship of any other country.

These categories of people, according to Maritz, do not meet some requirements for citizenship by naturalisation under the ministry’s national documentation exercise. The two pieces of legislation cater for this gap, he says.

The regularisation of status of certain residents of Namibia, their foreign spouses and their descendants bill is scheduled to be tabled in parliament in 2024/25. “This bill will cater to those who are still in possession of SWA identity documents (IDs) and have not converted to blue IDs because they do not meet the requirements of the law.

“South Africans who arrived in 1980 and still have SWA IDs will, therefore, receive assistance through this law,” Maritz says.

He says South Africans who are still in possession of their national documents are not stateless and may apply for other types of citizenship in Namibia, such as through naturalisation or marriage (if married).

For nomadic Khoi people, Maritz says the ministry has a fixed registration point at Chetto in Bwabwata National Park.

He says periodic mobile registrations are conducted to ensure those who do not have national documents and those who may have lost them are issued with national documents.

The ministry last month started with a nationwide initiative to register national documents.

Maritz says the registration drive includes the registration of births for individuals of all ages, applications for duplicate birth certificates, and applications for ID cards and duplicate ID cards.

“National documents do not only provide a sense of belonging, but establish a person’s legal identity and are necessary to access services such as education, employment and social grants.”

He says the ministry will deploy teams to identified locations, with a special focus on hard-to-reach areas, vulnerable communities and schools in all 14 regions.

Maritz urges those who wish to apply for national documents to visit designated registration points when mobile teams visit their respective areas. Applicants are advised to bring the necessary supporting documents.

*Not her real name.

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