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Johannesburg - Home Affairs is threatening to deport a Swedish radical amid a diplomatic row sparked by ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe accusing Swedes of fuelling the Marikana crisis.
Diplomatic sources told The Sunday Independent that Sweden has protested against Mantashe’s comments he made two weeks ago.
Security departments – including Home Affairs and intelligence services – have enquired about the immigration status of Liv Shange, who married South African Xolani Shange in December 2004. It is understood that the security agencies also probed Shange’s role in the “destabilisation” of the country and her involvement in the mining crisis.
Shange is one of the leaders of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), an internationally linked leftist outfit, and the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp), a new labour-orientated political party launched in March. She has been at the forefront of organising striking mineworkers in North West and Gauteng.
Mantashe blamed the anarchy in the platinum mines on foreign nationals – and particularly singled out the Swedes and the Irish.
“What is happening in Marikana... I can give you what comes out of that information. Anarchy, anarchy, anarchy driven by people who are from far away… Sweden, Irish. They are a force behind the anarchy that is happening in the platinum industry,” he said in Sandton a fortnight ago.
The unrepentant Mantashe said on Saturday he was not aware of any diplomatic protest.
“I am not in (the Department of International Relations and Co-operation). I am in the ANC. If the Social Democratic (Movement) has an issue, it will write to the ANC. But the reality is that it is a Swedish citizen who is at the centre of anarchy in the platinum belt. I did not suck it out of my thumb.”
Swedish embassy spokesman Andre Mkandawire denied that his country had complained about Mantashe’s comments. “It’s not our issue to comment on. We find nothing wrong with his (Mantashe’s) comments,” Mkandawire said.
But a Luthuli House official indirectly confirmed “the diplomatic incident”.
International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela declined to comment.
President Jacob Zuma recently blamed “shadowy international elements and movements” for the unrest in platinum mines and working to stoke opposition to Cosatu and its affiliate, the National Union of Mineworkers.
Wasp founder and DSM general secretary Weizmann Hamilton on Saturday accused Mantashe of fomenting xenophobia by blaming the unrest in the platinum mines on the Swedes and Irish.
“We’re going to call on Gwede to withdraw that statement,” he said.
He said unionists such as Industrial and Commercial Union founder Clement Kadalie and former NUM president James Motlatsi were not South African.
Kadalie was Malawian while Motlatsi was born in Lesotho.
It is not clear if the security and immigration investigations against Shange were prompted by the comments by Zuma and Mantashe, but it is understood that Home Affairs has asked the police to probe Shange’s immigration status.
“We have found out that she is here illegally. Police are looking for her. We couldn’t find her. This has nothing to do with her involvement in these parties, we are a democracy and we allow freedom of association, but her role and legal status in this country are a concern,” said a high-ranking official who could not be named as he was not mandated to speak to the media on the matter.
Hawks spokesman Captain Paul Ramaloko said he did not have enough time to confirm whether or not there was an investigation.
A second official in a security department alleged that Shange entered South Africa illegally, and although she was married to a South African, her immigration status did not change.
Interestingly, Shange arrived in South Africa in January 2004 to study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she completed her political science degree in 2007.
Hamilton said an administrative error by Home Affairs had resulted in Shange using a tourist visa instead of a spousal visa.
He said Shange lost her passport in December 2010 after she was mugged shortly before she was due to go abroad.
She then received a temporary Swedish passport, according to Hamilton. But when she went to Home Affairs she was told there was no record of her spousal visa despite her having a reference number.
He said Home Affairs officials rejected her application for a spousal visa and threatened to have her deported.
Shange, who is out of the country, may now not be able to return.
She could not be reached on Saturday. Her husband Xolani declined to comment.
Hamilton suspects that Shange’s woes have to do with her work as an activist.
“We are not aware of an investigation into Liv, but we do know there has been problems with her at immigration,” he said.
However, Mantashe said Shange’s activities were not political activism, but anarchy.
The Sunday Independent has been reliably informed that DSM leaders wrote to Home Affairs’ deputy director-general for immigration services, Jackie Mckay this week querying the probe into Shange’s immigration status.
Mckay however denied receiving the letter. “Even if I did I wouldn’t share it with you because it’s personal information,” he said.
Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said the department had a public duty to respond and investigate any allegations or information regarding the immigration status of individuals in South Africa.
“The Immigration Act of 2002 requires all persons in South Africa to be here on a lawful basis. If the said individuals are here illegally then they will be subject to tracing by the Immigration Inspectorate unit for deportation.”