Who am I?
That may sound like a deep question but in reality it is very shallow. When supporting teams I have a system. If Zimbabwe play South Africa then I support Zimbabwe, like when Zimbabwe beat South Africa in the cricket world cup, on the basis that I was born in Zimbabwe and was a citizen of that country first. If South Africa play England, like when the Springboks beat England in the RWC2007, then I support South Africa on the basis that I think I am very much a South African as I spent my formative years there going to school and university and I am/was a citizen of that county second. When England play anyone else I support England, although secretly I don't really support their rugby team and I made the fatal mistake of supporting England football only to be horribly disappointed. Finally I support anyone playing against Australia, which may sound harsh but they just win too much so put that down to an English habit of supporting the underdog.
Well the South African government may have put a big spanner in that system, on Friday 16th May 2008 I went to South Africa House in London to renew my passport after waiting six weeks for my appointment and having to take a day off work. First problem was that the passport renewal office wasn't at South Africa House, it was actually in Admiralty St. Then after filling in yet another form to go with the two forms I had already downloaded and filled in and with the double certified copies of just about every formal document I have (£40 worth) I finally got to the front of the queue (only 1/2hr after the scheduled time, not too bad by African standards of time). Things were going well until she asked me if I had 'asked for permission before I became naturalised as a British citizen or applied for dual nationality'. I said 'no, I didn't know I had to'. Apparently that raises questions regarding my citizenship and residence status in South Africa, she disappeared for a while to talk with her supervisor before deciding to send my 'Determination of citizenship' form and accompanying paperwork to South Africa to resolve those questions. A response may take a few months and if positive, only then can I apply for a passport renewal! Apparently if I was born in South Africa it would not have been an issue, I pointed out that I couldn't get a Zimbabwian passport despite being born there.
So I may no longer be a South African. What does that do to my identity? Everyone, including the local pub manager at the Bell, know me as a South African. Am I now to be forced to support England and suffer all the pain that the locals face in supporting their teams?
Well after numerous calls to the South African consulate, being told we will call you back and then they don't and being told it can take anywhere from six months to six years for them to process a 'Determination of citizenship application' I was told today that I am officially no longer a South African citizen. In fact I apparently haven't been a citizen since 25/07/2002 when I became naturalized as a British citizen. If I was born in South Africa then I would still have rights to South African citizenship. There is no appeal process and if I want to regain my citizenship then I have to apply for a residency visa and then go and live in South Africa for a period before I can regain my citizenship, I don't think that's likely do you?
I'm a bit sad that I am no longer South African citizen because I still think of myself as being South African even though I have almost lived in the UK for the same amount of time as I lived in South Africa!