ISSUE 10 | 2015
A new beginning for naturalised citizens in SA
One of my most humbling responsibilities as the Minister of Home Affairs is to welcome new South Africans. Normally these new South Africans are between a few hours and 30 days old, and my role is to issue them with full birth certificates and add them to the National Population Register.
For sure, the new South Africans we are inducting today are in the main a bit older and arguably far less cute, but no less important as future citizens of our beloved country. For far too long, the granting of South African citizenship by naturalisation has been conducted as an administrative formality.
The induction of naturalised South Africans is of enormous importance to nation building. Accordingly, this important act of the naturalisation as South Africans of people born elsewhere, who have opted by choice to make South Africa their own home, in a way who have opted to become our very own, cannot take place under the shroud of darkness, undertaken as a mere administrative formality, away from the full glare of the nation.
South African citizenship is precious, and the nation has an interest both in welcoming their new fellow compatriots and ensuring that recipients understand what it means to be South African. For this reason, I have directed our officials to implement this induction ceremony, which will be conducted at various times each year, to ensure naturalised South Africans are inducted with the appropriate sense of significance.
A survey of international practices has shown that many leading democracies conduct such ceremonies for similar reasons, with high-level government representatives presiding. Among our objectives for the naturalisation induction process, culminating in the induction ceremony, are that naturalised citizens should:
have some understanding of the significance of assuming SA citizenship;
commit to obey the laws of the Republic;
demonstrate and respect democratic values; and
know their rights and responsibilities as active citizens.
Naturalised citizens are an important addition to the fabric of our society and are therefore vital to nation-building and social cohesion.
You reaffirm the many positive characteristics of our country, as you are South Africans by choice, not by accident of birth. You bring with you social and cultural contributions flowing out of your histories, backgrounds, relationships and experiences.
In that way, therefore, you add ever-newer dynamics to our diversity as a people and make us a richer people with a deeper appreciation of what makes South Africa the country that it is. Because of you, we come to understand, again and again, that Project South Africa is never complete and is ever-evolving.
You contribute to our economy through the professional skills and experience you bring with you, as well as through your international connections drawn from your countries of origin and elsewhere in the world. It is important that we highlight these dynamics, to enhance social cohesion.
What does it mean to be South African? Certainly there can be no one answer to this question. South Africans are an extraordinarily warm, peace-loving, generous and resilient people. We are a nation forged by the values of Ubuntu – or humaneness – which recognise that I am, because you are.
Partly because of our historic and painful background, we recognise that we are all inextricably linked, our dignity and well-being is ultimately enhanced to the extent that we value the dignity and well-being of others.
We are a diverse people of many backgrounds and languages. Most South Africans, admirably, are multilingual, speaking more than one of our 11 official languages and we not only tolerate but relish this diversity, and regard it as a strength rather than a weakness or source of division.
We are a people who have emerged out of a difficult past. For more than three centuries, the area which is now South Africa has been characterised by oppression, dispossession, injustice based on racist and sexist discrimination as well as racial, cultural and ethnic exclusion.
From this painful past, the founding mothers and fathers of our democracy captured the fundamental values of inclusion, dignity, social justice and internationalism in the Preamble of our Constitution, from which I will quote:
“We, the people of South Africa,
Recognise the injustices of our past;
Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land;
Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country;
and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.
We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to:
- Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;
- Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law;
- Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person;
- and build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.”
South Africans are rightly proud of our progressive Constitution, including the expansive recognition of citizens’ rights. As new South Africans, you will enjoy these rights fully, just as you take on the responsibilities that accompany them.
Our nation’s greatest challenge is arguably the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. Overcoming the triple challenges is a core objective of our National Development Plan.
Our National Development Plan, Vision 2030 – adopted in 2012 – is a long-term plan to realize the South Africa we want by 2030. It is an overarching vision which all government policies must align with and advance, and which provides a framework for citizens and formations throughout society to engage with and contribute to.
The National Development Plan is not a government programme alone; but a national Plan of Action for government, the private sector and civil society at large; indeed, for organisations and citizens alike. It aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
Vision 2030 envisions a South Africa “where everyone feels free yet bounded to others; where everyone embraces their full potential, a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work.”
Making this a reality will require among other things, faster, more inclusive economic growth, and building the capabilities of our people to play a role in this growth.
All South Africans must play a role here, as productive workers, as thoughtful consumers, as entrepreneurs, as developmental managers and mentors, as innovators, researchers and knowledge producers. The NDP is dependent on active and engaged citizens.
Our nation’s development is not something which is delivered by government to citizens, but rather the product of us all working together. Active citizenry means finding ways to get involved, participating in public discourse and social activism.
I encourage all of you to familiarize yourself with the National Development Plan, to better understand our structural challenges, our plans to overcome these, and how you might contribute to building the South Africa we want by the year 2030.
So, as we commemorate your new beginning, as new South African citizens, and a new beginning in how our nation inducts naturalised citizens, it feels apt to recall the words of President Mandela on the occasion of his inauguration in 1994, when the New South Africa finally officially unfolded in front of the world watching with bated breath, when he said:
“Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which allhumanity will be proud. Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity`s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all. All this we owe both to ourselves and to the peoples of the world who are so well represented here today. To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld.”
He then proceeded to say, capturing the hopes of all our people, that:
“We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfil themselves. Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world. Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! God bless Africa!”
It is on your shoulders too that these dreams and hopes as so aptly expressed by our dearly- cherished late Founding Father, President Nelson Mandela, our Constitution as well as the National Development Plan, also fall. This, our beautiful country, South Africa, is an evolving story that continues to be told, reinforcing our faith as well as the faith of humanity as a whole in our noble intentions. Cherish it as we do.
[Extract from the speech delivered at the Naturalisation Induction Ceremony at the Birchwood Conference Centre, Ekurhuleni, on 28 June 2016]
Minister of Home Affairs