SA home affairs ministry targeting African professionals for deportation
The Pretoria High Court issued an urgent interim interdict this week against the minister and Department of Home Affairs prohibiting them from deporting an investment banker working in South Africa. Home Affairs is also interdicted from preventing him travelling to and from the country.
Though he has permanent residence in SA, Home Affairs had declared him a prohibited person for alleged fraud relating to his residence application.
The investment banker has denied any fraud and says no formal charges have been brought against him by Home Affairs to which he can respond. Nor has there been a conviction for fraud.
The court order says, pending the outcome of a review application, that Home Affairs is “interdicted and restrained from deporting the applicant from the Republic of South Africa, and or, denying the applicant entry to the Republic of South Africa”.
The investment banker has also brought a “review application” before the high court to challenge his declaration as a prohibited person.
These reviews can take one to two years, which forced him to seek an urgent interdict so he could travel for his work without being prevented from returning to SA.
His job at one of SA’s biggest commercial banks places him in charge of billions of rands worth of investments, says his affidavit before the court.
He further argues that by declaring him a prohibited person on the basis of an unproven fraud, Home Affairs has denied his rights to just administrative action allowed under the Constitution.
Not an isolated case
Two other similar cases are before the same court, one a dual Zimbabwean and SA citizen working at Old Mutual, who was told in 2018 that she was an illegal foreigner when she applied to renew her SA passport and was told in 2019 that she had to leave the country.
She likewise was told that she had committed fraud and had made misrepresentations to Home Affairs.
The matter went to court in 2019, and has yet to be finally decided. The uncertainty of her residence status prevented her from attending her son’s funeral in Zimbabwe in 2019, and from travelling outside the country since then.
The third case involves a Zimbabwean entrepreneur with three companies employing 14 South Africans, and who owns a R2.5 million residential property.
He was granted permanent residence in 2017, but when applying for the SA ID document was told that he too was a prohibited person for allegedly making fraudulent representation to Home Affairs.
“I have not been accused, charged, or convicted of a criminal offence,” he deposes in his affidavit before the court. He has three children, all of them born in SA, and they call South Africa home, he says.
What is common to all of these cases is that they are highly educated, with skills that are in high demand according to the Critical Skills List issued by Home Affairs. All have familial connections to either Zimbabwe or Zambia.
“What is disturbing about these cases is that they are all highly skilled professionals, and in each case the Department of Home Affairs has made unsubstantiated allegations of fraud related to their applications for permanent residence in SA,” says Advocate Simba Chitando, who is representing the three.
“They have been declared prohibited persons without being given a fair administrative hearing, as is required by law, and are expected to uproot and leave South Africa with their spouses and children who have all grown up and gone to school here.
“There is a pattern here of targeting African professionals who are permanent residents or citizens with vague and unsubstantiated accusations of fraud. This is extremely disturbing and we welcome the Pretoria High Court’s decision this week.”