Since Parliament deliberations last year on dual citizenship, around 400 Batswana have so far renounced their foreign citizenship.
While government is yet to take a firm stance on whether it approves or disapproves of its citizens possessing dual citizenship, the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs Permanent Secretary Molefi Keaja said the issue of dual citizenship is a sensitive matter.
He said it needs thorough consultations before the law can be amended to accommodate any more opportunities for dual citizenship. Currently the ministry is engaged in such consultations with stakeholders with a view to Amend the Act.
Presently the Citizenship Act cap 01.01.01 of the laws of Botswana, being the law governing acquisition and loss citizenship of Botswana, allows dual citizenship in respect of persons under the age of 21 years.
Keaja further said: “The Act also allows dual citizenship for Batswana married to non-citizens, where the law of the country requires that its foreign spouse be registered as a citizen or the law automatically confers citizenship on the foreign spouse, provided he/she continues to stay in Botswana after contracting marriage. However, the Act provides that persons who voluntarily acquire the citizenship of another country shall automatically cease to be citizens of Botswana.”
Some concerns over why some governments disapprove of dual citizens, is that those in possession use their indigenous citizenship to claim welfare provisions such as easy global travel, health care benefits, employment opportunities, social benefits and even government tenders. This act by some people who possess dual citizenship is considered a crime as it denies natives of both the foreign and indigenous land, that the dual citizenship holder may belong to.
For people who are not born in Botswana and what conditions they must meet to be considered for Botswana citizenship, Keaja explained that “non-citizens who are desirous of becoming Batswana may apply for Certificate of Naturalisation. Upon satisfying the residence requirement of having stayed legally in the country for periods amounting in aggregate to not less than ten (10) years. They must have resided in the country for a continuous period of twelve (12) month immediately preceding the submission of their applications.”
“Furthermore, those who are married to Batswana may apply for Certificate of Naturalisation by a Foreign Spouse upon satisfying the residence requirement of five (5) years. However, they must notify the Minister that they are desirous of becoming citizens by making a declaration during 2 and half years of residence in Botswana,” Keaja said.
The Ministry of Nationality has in 2019 encountered three cases of people who have contravened the law by being in possession of Botswana documents as well as those of other countries.
“In terms of section of 24 of the Citizenship Act, any person who fails to comply with any requirement imposed on him/her by instrument made under the Citizenship Act shall be guilty of an offence and on conviction thereof shall be liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding P1000. Furthermore his/her Botswana Citizenship may be revoked,” Keaja shared.