Johannesburg - The department of home affairs is seeking leave to appeal an interim court order that Ugandan gay rights activist Paul Semugoma be allowed to enter South Africa, the department said on Wednesday.
Spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said in a statement that Semugoma's visitor's visa had expired and this was why he had been prohibited from entering the country, in terms of the Immigration Act.
News agency Agence France-Presse reported earlier that Semugoma was detained at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg when he landed there on a flight from Zimbabwe on Monday.
According to the report, Semugoma applied for a South African work permit in 2012 but the application was lost twice. Home affairs then issued him a receipt for travel.
A number of South African activist groups called for Semugoma to be released, arguing that if he were deported to Uganda he could be at risk because of that country's proposed anti-gay laws.
Mamoepa denied that the department sought to ignore the interim court order, even though its legal representatives were not present when it was granted.
“In this context, we appeal to the public to avoid imputing motive and thus communicating falsehoods regarding the reasons for refusing Dr. Semugoma entry into South Africa.”
AFP also reported that South African officials tried to put Semugoma on a flight on Wednesday, but he refused to board.
He has reportedly been volunteering at the Anova Health Institute in Johannesburg for the past three years.