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Cape Town - A Johannesburg-based poet has spoken of his anger at being denied a visa to visit a US university because he had served five years on Robben Island for his role in opposing apartheid.
Morakabe Raks Seakhoa had been invited to participate in a panel discussion at Brown University in Rhode Island.
Seakhoa, who is managing director of wRite associates and project director of the Africa Century International African Writers Conference/SA Literary Awards, was to speak at the fifth Achebe Colloquium on Africa on Saturday.
Seakhoa said he had hoped his political incarceration would not deny him the opportunity to travel to the US as other activists who had served time were able to travel.
“I was very angry. I really thought they would have got rid of this requirement.
“Hopefully I can attend next year,” he said on Sunday.
The colloquium was convened by Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe, who worked at the university from 2009 until his death last year.
Seakhoa was to speak on the topic “A Man of the People: Achebe and the Crusade for Social Justice”.
Seakhoa was incarcerated on Robben Island between 1979 and 1984 due to his political activism.
On April 29, the day before Seakhoa expected to fly to the US, he had received a telephone call from the US consulate in Joburg.
“They would need my police clearance certificate and my court records so they could work on my clearance.”
Seakhoa explained that would be “impossible” as it would take at least six to eight weeks to receive the certificate.
A letter sent by the US Consulate General to Seakhoa, dated April 29, said his application had been refused.
“The consular officer has refused your non-immigration visa (NIV) application. Under 221(g) of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act, a consular officer may not issue a visa to any applicant whose eligibility has not been clearly established.”
The letter asked that a “current police clearance certificate” and “records relating to prior convictions” be submitted in order to be reconsidered.
Seakhoa experienced a similar situation in 2002 after being invited to deliver a keynote address in Boston at the African Literary Association Conference, but at the last minute was granted a visa.