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Home Affairs acts swiftly in face of fine

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Independent Newspapers

Home Affairs has taken just eight minutes to come up with a decision in relation to a Taiwanese family who took the department to court after it failed for four years to respond to its application.

This happened after the Pretoria High Court indicated it would no longer tolerate this state of affairs, and slapped a fine of R100 000 each on the minister and two officials in the department for being in contempt of court.

It was the second time that the Pretoria High Court had found the department to be in contempt of court for ignoring its orders.

Judge Pierre Rabie had ruled earlier that the minister, the director-general and the chief director for permits had to reach a decision on whether Che Wei Chang, his wife and two sons could remain in the country while the department decided on their long-term future in SA.

The court ordered the department four years ago to apply its mind immediately to the plight of this family, but nothing was done.

This was followed by more court orders in this regard.

Terence Rover, lawyer for the family, said it had become necessary to ask the court to find the minister and a number of officials in contempt and to punish them.

The family asked the court to send the minister and the two senior officials to jail or to fine them “for their blatant disregard of the court orders made against them”.

This application was granted.

Acting Judge Nomsa Khumalo confirmed that the minister and the officials were in contempt of two previous court orders relating to the family’s Home Affairs application.

She directed that the minister and the two officials each pay a R100 000 fine.

This order was suspended for 30 days, on condition that the department complied immediately with the previous court orders by deciding on the status of the family in the country.

Counsel for Home Affairs did not attend the court hearing to defend the matter.

Although the orders had not been complied with in the past, it is believed that within about eight minutes of being informed of this week’s order, the office of the state attorney (which acts on behalf of the department) came to a decision about the family’s application to be issued with a document called a “Form 20”.

This form allows foreigners to produce proof to immigration officers and the police that the department is processing their application regarding their status in the country, so they will not be arrested and deported.

Home Affairs decided this week not to issue the family with this document. Rover said the family were appealing against this decision internally.

“Our client’s ordeal is not over, but we are a step closer to resolving the matter,” he said.

“It grieves me that these are the lengths we have to go to ensure the department fulfils its mandate. I wish I could say this is an isolated case, but it happens far too often that the department disregards court orders.”

The department, in not adhering to the court orders, has run up a bill of about R90 000 for legal fees - to be paid by the taxpayer. - Pretoria News


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