Saffer craving passport and boerie
Article 21 of the South African Constitution is not such a tricky provision to understand. It says pretty clearly that as a citizen of the country, I am entitled to a passport. It also says that I am allowed to leave the country and re-enter the country. So I am pretty confident that I am allowed to reside outside of South Africa, and the government has a duty to promote my right to come home when I wish, and specifically, to actually give me the passport I am entitled to.
Sadly, I am but one of many expatriate South Africans being denied the rights of my citizenship. While I applied for a new passport some 11 months ago from my local embassy, neither Home Affairs nor the embassy itself is at any pains to actually provide me with one. A friend of mine in a similar situation (whose business promoting trade between Europe and South Africa has been severely hampered by the failure to supply her with a passport for many months) shared in my frustration recently when telling me how she was told by the consulate that they were rather stretched and really couldn’t establish constructive communication with Home Affairs on the issue. However, she was privy to overhear consulate staff’s dedication to the activity of locating the correct innards to craft some boerewors for an upcoming event. Apparently boerewors and parties fall within the priorities of our representatives abroad, but not so much the protection of citizens.
And while we are in no shortage of incompetent government departments to moan about, nor violations of rights to be indignant about, this one is a painful reminder to me of just how ambitious our governments institutional incompetence is – stretching continents to annoy, limit and frustrate the lives of citizens.
As a patriotic expatriate who longs for home, I must admit that there is something all too familiar in the experience of such attitudes. In conversations with folk at home, one often encounters this attitude that living outside the country disentitles one to opinions and interests in South African affairs. Similar sentiments were expressed by Charles Nqakula back in 2006 and felt in the immense difficulties citizens abroad have had in voting in national elections. This sense that citizenship belongs only to those who stay put and shut up, not only stings of Apartheid irony, but is also indicative of an increasing denial of democratic freedoms to citizens through strategically bureaucratised delays. Be it through the administrative quagmire to access public information or the excessive delays to access justice through the courts, citizens at home share in my passport frustration as our experience of our rights as citizens are increasingly impeded and delayed.
Perhaps my cynicism is just another whine from one of those paranoid expats or perhaps it’s just boerewors withdrawal that is distorting my perspective but please South Africa, give me a passport so I can come home and see for myself!