Cape Town - The battle to bring a man and woman home to their families raged on in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday after they were branded “undesirable” by new immigration rules which banished them from South Africa.
Arguments ping-ponged between the counsels for the distraught applicants and the Home Affairs minister and director-general for over four hours on Tuesday.
Brent Johnson’s wife, Louise Egedal Johnson, and their young son were forced to fly to Denmark after being detained for six hours at Cape Town International Airport.
Cherene Delorie’s husband, David Henderson, returned to his native Zimbabwe on a business trip only to be refused entry back into South Africa due to an expired work permit.
Their advocates have jointly brought a two-part application before the court. The first part asks for urgent interim relief – allowing the “undesirable” spouses back into South Africa as soon as possible. The second part calls for a slower but more permanent solution, including challenging the new immigration regulations.
Delorie brought her two young sons to court because there was nobody else to look after them.
Dylan, 7, sat quietly while Logan, 4, climbed on his mother’s lap and hugged her.
“The kids miss their dad so much,” she said outside court. “They constantly ask where he is.”
Delorie said it was difficult to deal with her own emotions, being separated from her husband, as well as caring for two young children with no help.
“I don’t know how I’m coping.”
She said the worst part for her husband was not being able to attend Logan’s birthday party.
“He lives for his family,” she said. “Everything is about his family.”
Two senior counsels representing Home Affairs said in all likelihood their internal processes would grant Henderson and Johnson leave to return – but, in the meantime, the applicants had left the country with expired permits, were considered illegal immigrants and should stay overseas until no longer “undesirable”.
Johnson, whose wife came to South Africa 10 years ago, said she felt brutalised and betrayed. “It’s upsetting, traumatic,” he said outside court. “The separation is the worst thing for us.”
Their son is two and a half years old.
“Samuel asks for me a lot,” Johnson said. If he is separated from his family for another week or more, he is considering abandoning his life in Cape Town and moving to Denmark to be with them. He also plans to approach the public protector and the Human Rights Commission over his ordeal with Home Affairs.
“It’s bullying abuse of power,” Johnson said. “It’s almost xenophobic.”
But William Mokhari, for Home Affairs, said: “We love foreigners. We want them to come to our country. But they must come here in compliance with our laws.”
Judgment is expected on Monday.