Gaborone - The Botswana government has announced that it would cancel citizenship for all persons above the age of 21 who have not renounced citizenship of another country.
Currently, a child born to a Botswana citizen and a foreigner has dual citizenship or is considered to assume the nationality of both parents until the age of 21.
But the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs said after age 21 the person should choose between the two countries and renounce citizenship of the other.
The ministry stated in a statement that: “Affected individuals should at the age of 20 inform the ministry in writing of their intention to renounce citizenship, a process which must be completed before turning 21. Affected individuals are to submit their letters to immigration offices in their area.”
According to the statement, “When an individual with dual citizenship fails to renounce citizenship at age 21, it will result in the loss of the Botswana citizenship because the law will presume that the citizenship has been renounced as per the Citizenship Act.”
Reports indicate that some Botswana citizens are married to foreigners from neighbouring countries such as Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. There are fears already that the cancellation of the dual citizenship is likely to make life difficult for such couples.
Francistown South Member of Parliament Wynter Mmolotsi is of the view that there are benefits that come with dual citizenship such as eligibility for employment, economic opportunities and services in the two countries which they belonged to.
According to Mmolotsi, many Batswana born outside the country would be forced to choose between the citizenship of their countries of birth or Botswana when they reached the age of 21, which would disadvantage them.
He further stated that children, who had one of their parents originating from a foreign country, would also face the same problem.
“There are many people in my constituency who have a Motswana and Zimbabwean parent, who will face problems when they reach the age of 21. They will have their identity cards confiscated if they do not renounce the citizenship of Zimbabwe. They should be allowed to remain citizens of the two countries,” he said. The legislator noted that many progressive nations allowed dual citizenship and, hence, Botswana should follow suit.
“Our economy is constricting and if people were allowed to have a second country they will go there and look for employment. They will then come back and invest their money here and the country will benefit,” he observed.
Last year, Botswana Parliament intended to debate a Dual Citizenship Bill but it was discovered that it would precipitate a constitutional crisis and would lead to chaos if it goes ahead as planned.
The then Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Edwin Batshu was quoted as saying that the Bill had been deferred to an unspecified date to allow the government to look into various Acts under different ministries that were likely to be affected by the Bill.
According to Batshu, it was discovered that so far, the Bill in its current form, has the potential to negatively affect 34 pieces of legislation that fall under the purview of various ministries.
Reports indicate that should the Dual Citizenship Bill pass in its current form, it would see a number of Batswana, who are interested in adopting dual citizenship being barred from voting.