SUNDAY TIMES - ANC threat to ban dual citizenship
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Sunday Times News By SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA, 2015-09-06 00:05:00.0

ANC threat to ban dual citizenship

The issue of South African Jews receiving military and intelligence training in Israel was discussed at the ANC lekgotla, as was the matter of local companies' ties to the Jewish state.
Image: BAZ RATNER REUTERS

The ANC is reviewing South Africa's dual-citizenship policy in a bid to stop South African citizens from taking up arms for the Jewish state.

Any such move would affect millions of other South Africans as well - those who hold dual citizenship with countries besides Israel.

But an unrepentant Obed Bapela, head of the ANC's national executive committee's subcommittee on international relations, said the issue had already been discussed at the party's July lekgotla and would come up again next month at its national general council.

Bapela said this week: "The question is to see if the world still needs this model of dual citizenship ... We say in this new world order, people should just say I am a citizen of South Africa and I pledge my allegiance to this country. But I do have a home [outside the country]."

Reviewing the policy would involve amending the 1995 South African Citizenship Act.

Immigration lawyer Craig Smith said the proposed amendments to the act would not pass constitutional muster.

I don't know what accounts for this isolationist approach... but SA seems to be closing itself to the rest of the world

This is because the constitution dictates that no citizen may be deprived of South African citizenship.

"There would be no way that our constitution will allow government to impose such invasive measures that go to the core of international norms of citizenship law," said Smith.

He said the proposal smacked of political grandstanding and was retrogressive and ill-conceived.

Smith questioned what the ANC's rational basis was for taking someone's birthright away.

Obed Bapela Image: Gallo Images / The Times / Lauren Mulligan

While Smith did not have statistics, he said he believed hundreds of thousands of South Africans could be affected if the ANC should succeed.

Another immigration lawyer, Gary Eisenberg of the firm Eisenberg de Saude, said there was an increase in isolationism on the part of South African authorities.

"I don't know what accounts for this isolationist approach to foreigners, but South Africa seems to be closing itself to the rest of the world," said Eisenberg.

The issue of South African Jews receiving military and intelligence training in Israel was discussed at the lekgotla, as was the matter of local companies' ties to the Jewish state.

Although the ANC has previously expressed its displeasure about young Jewish South Africans undergoing military training in Israel - something that is effectively outlawed by the 1998 Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act - the party now wants to place an outright ban on the practice.

It also decided that it would act against a range of companies - including wire and steel manufacturer Cape Gate, which the ANC accused of having constructed the "apartheid wall" in Gaza. Others include:

  • Major retailer Woolworths, which it accuses of selling products produced in the occupied territories;
  • Machinery manufacture Caterpillar, whose machines, the ANC claimed, were being used to demolish houses belonging to Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlement; and
  • British security company G4S, which, according to the ANC, manufactured equipment used by Israel to torture Palestinian political prisoners.

The ANC said these companies should be "persuaded" to cut ties with the Jewish state or face "isolation".

Should the companies refuse to toe the line, the ANC would name and shame them before boycotting their goods. Retailers such as Woolworths would be required to label products imported from Gaza so that the public could identify them and not buy them.

Our concern... is that the ANC is starting to move away from being a pro-Palestinian organisation to an anti-Israel organisation

"We will then create consciousness within South Africa when you go into the shops, look at the label and check which goods come from those areas and boycott those goods. Don't buy them," said Bapela.

Bapela said G4S security might face losing its contract to provide security at local airports should it refuse to stop doing business with the Israelis: "We might also have to advise government not to provide procurement to those companies. Like G4S is guarding our airports. When the contract ends we might say to government the ANC has taken a decision that company X must be isolated. But we have not reached that point," he said.

Nigel Fairbrass, a spokesman for G4S, said the company had supplied Israel with CCTV cameras and baggage scanners only and "in fact we announced some time ago that when our contract with Israel expires in 2017, we have no intention of renewing it".

Caterpillar and Cape Gate could not be reached for comment.

The ANC's position drew sharp criticism from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, which accused the party of becoming openly hostile to South Africa's Jewish citizens.

Board president Zev Krengel said although it respected the ANC's right to support the Palestinian cause, the proposals were anti-Israel.

"Our concern as the Jewish community is that the ANC is starting to move away from being a pro-Palestinian organisation to an anti-Israel organisation. That will make the Jewish community very uncomfortable. It's a Jewish state and Jewish homeland that we'll always have a bond to."

A demonstrator shows a placard inside Woolworths at Killarney mall in Johannesburg on October 25, 2014. A BDS (Boycott, Disinvest and Sanction) action targeted again the high end South African retailer Woolworths accused by the demonstrators of using products coming from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The police arrested several dozen demonstrators. Image: AFP PHOTO/ZINYANGE AUNTONY

A Woolworths spokesman said yesterday that the company did not source products from the occupied territories.

"We respect our customers' right to make individual purchasing choices, which is why we clearly label every product's country of origin and fully comply with government legislation," the statement said.

Bapela said the ANC had noticed that the number of young South Africans leaving the country under false pretences to undergo training in Israel was growing. "They go there on holiday. Once they are there they get trained for that particular period while they are on holiday. It's quite a growing phenomenon that we are expressing as worrying."

He said the propaganda that was fed to young South Africans by the Israeli government during the military or intelligence training was contrary to the South African government's stance on the Israeli-Palestine conflict and was delaying the process to free Palestine.

"Our resolution on Palestine is simple: the two states must coexist. We are not saying Israel must not exist as a state. They must coexist side by side with a Palestine that is free and independent.

"Once you train young South Africans towards particular ideological ... aspects of the Israeli apartheid mentality that is still oppressing another nation, that is where we are expressing this shock.

"The Zionist ideology tells these young boys that Palestine wants to extinct Israel, which is not true. Unfortunately there is a lot of propaganda that reaches these young people."

Bapela said plans were in place to hold talks with Jewish community organisations and prominent Jewish leaders to dissuade South African Jews from undertaking the training.

The issue of South African Jews receiving military and intelligence training in Israel was discussed at the ANC lekgotla, as was the matter of local companies' ties to the Jewish state. Image: REUTERS BAZ RATNER

Israel's ambassador to South Africa, Arthur Lenk, said Israel encouraged regular dialogue between the country and the ANC.

Lenk said both countries had "much to offer each other with significant trade, tourism and people-to-people partnerships".

He did not respond directly to the proposed ban on young Jewish people getting national service training in Israel.

"There is a mutual appreciation of both the governments of Israel and South Africa in the benefits of working together to deepen our ties and dialogue. The historic relationship between the ANC and Israel's Palestinian neighbours can offer the input of South Africa's positive, pragmatic experience on the importance of peaceful negotiations, compromise and a rejection of terrorism. Israel encourages South Africa to engage positively with all sides," said Lenk.

The ANC's plans were welcomed by the Media Review Network, an organisation that describes itself as working to break down myths and stereotypes about Islam and Muslims.

"We believe that it is imperative that the ruling party urgently take steps in order to identify and prosecute these South Africans who would be engaging in Israeli Defence Forces operations," said executive director Iqbal Jassat.

- Additional reporting by Nashira Davids and Monica Laganparsad

shobas@sundaytimes.co.za