Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Thursday took steps to quell public alarm over the possibility that the government is mooting an end to dual nationality. President Jacob Zuma, meanwhile, wants the public to know that there’s a new urgency in tackling the country’s infrastructure demands – and suggests that striking workers should study the global economy before making their demands. By REBECCA DAVIS.
The African National Congress (ANC) has no plans currently to strip South Africans of dual nationality. Outrage has been expressed since the publication of a Sunday Times report quoting the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) Obed Bapela as calling for a review of dual citizenship, ostensibly to prevent South African citizens serving in the Israeli military.
Now Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has come forward to assure South Africans that no such review is happening. Gigaba told journalists in Cape Town on Thursday that he had been requested by the ANC to provide clarity on the matter to the public in light of the levels of concern. Gigaba said that to implement a blanket ban on dual citizenship would be “a mistake of historic proportions”.
While Gigaba acknowledged that the Israeli military issue was considered problematic, he said it would be unthinkable for the government to enact legislation on the basis of one particular nation. ““You can’t adopt an act directed at a country, it must be generally applicable,” he said, and pointed out that the necessary laws already existed to prevent South Africans serving in foreign militaries.
Possibly in response to the furious reaction of the Jewish Board of Deputies, which accused the government of thinly-veiled anti-Semitism, Gigaba also insisted that the government was not on an anti-Israel crusade, despite its pro-Palestine stance.
“South Africa has nothing against the people of Israel,” he said. “It would be wrong of us to amend our legislation because we believe what the state of Israel is doing against Palestine is wrong.”
Gigaba said he was aware that the dual citizenship rumours had caused “a lot of consternation”, and he appealed for calm. He suggested that the notion may have been raised during a meeting of the international relations commission, but this did not translate into policy. “There is no position of the ANC towards that effect,” he said.
Gigaba also took advantage of the media platform to give his views on Europe’s migrant crisis, saying the government was monitoring developments with “deep concern”. His advice to Europe was that the continent should review its migration policies, adopt a “pan-European” approach, and increase dialogue between the African Union and the European Union.
He pointed out that South Africa annually takes in roughly two-thirds of the number of migrants taken in by Europe as a whole per annum.
Later on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma was on hand at Tuynhuys to give journalists an update after a meeting of the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC), which was established in 2011 to address South Africa’s infrastructure challenges. The president kept the media waiting for over three hours, but was in good spirits when he appeared, laughing and joking.
Zuma began by congratulating the University of the Witwatersrand on the discovery of Homo Naledi, describing the government as “very excited and very proud”.
“Our country is truly the cradle of humankind,” he said.
Somewhat incongruously, he followed this by noting that “another historic event” takes place in South Africa this weekend: the beatification of the first South African martyr by the Catholic Church. Later, he said Friday will be yet another “historic day”. It will see the unveiling of the Matolo Monument in Maputo, to commemorate the members of Umkhonto weSize killed in the Matola raid by the apartheid defence force in 1981.
When it came to addressing the issue of infrastructure, Zuma had relatively little of substance to report. He made mention of the opening of the Medupi power unit, together with the launch of the Coega wind farm in the Eastern Cape, which he says will power 50,000 households.
Zuma said the PICC has selected a number of infrastructure issues to receive specific focus. It wants to see the remaining Medupi units, and two new power stations, completed on deadline. It is prioritising extending accommodation for students, with Zuma noting the “frustration” of students countrywide at the current shortage. The PICC is looking to speed up the refurbishment of schools and hospitals. The programme to install solar water geysers is to be revitalised, with a target of 1,4-million geysers to be installed within the next four years.
The president said the Cabinet has approved a bill, to be submitted to Parliament shortly, to introduce mandatory minimum sentences for infrastructure-related offences – such as the theft of copper cables. He warned sternly that such theft constitutes a serious economic crime.
Zuma said the PICC’s meeting on Thursday had introduced a new sense of focus and urgency to the infrastructure discussion. He acknowledged that progress is currently too slow on infrastructure development, blaming the global economic downturn and the length of time it has taken to “reverse the legacy of apartheid”.
Apartheid was also on the president’s mind when he was asked about the damage inflicted on infrastructure by service delivery protests. Zuma said South Africa has a “violent culture which we carried from apartheid”. In other countries people also protest, he said, but they do not destroy property and services in the way that South African protesters do. To vandalise the very services which are being delivered, Zuma said, “doesn’t make sense”.
Asked for his views on labour relations in the mining industry, Zuma said he believed progress was being made. He suggested, however, that workers should take into account the global economic slump before pitching wage demands. Music to the ears of mining companies, no doubt. DM
Photo: Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba speaks at the Infrastructure Africa Business Forum in Sandton, Johannesburg on Tuesday, 16 July 2013. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA
Gigaba clarifies government’s stance on dual citizenship, on Mail & Guardian