BENCHED: Georges Maskini, 13, with mother Bampende, is no closer to getting his passport to travel to Thailand for a football event. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - The family of 13-year old George Maskini are no closer to getting any answers from Home Affairs as to why exactly the aspiring footballer was refused travel documents to participate in overseas tournaments.

The family is suing the department, but Home Affairs has asked their lawyers for more time to respond.

“The department is treating this matter with the adequate attention it deserves and as a consequence, has sent this matter for legal opinion to enable the department to make a decision in the best interest of all parties,” director of litigation Kabelo Mogotsi said in the letter.

Mogotsi added that due to this, the department had to request an extension to Monday to respond.

The Maskinis’ lawyers are not happy. “We sent letters to them in April and I don’t see how it can take so long to respond. It’s clear that they are delaying this matter,” advocate Romeo Tsusi said.

He said that the more this matter was delayed the more trauma George experienced.

It’s been months of twists and turns for George, as his family tries to make sense of how this could have happened.

First, he had his dream dashed when his teacher raised funds for him to participate in a tournament in Phuket, Thailand in November, only to discover that he didn’t qualify for a South African passport because both his parents were from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Fatima Chohan, stepped in when hearing about George’s troubles, and handed him what was thought to be a passport.

But it turned out to be travel document which showed his nationality as South African, conflicting with the barcode on the travel document which identified him as from the DRC. This led to George missing the tour to Thailand.

On hearing of George’s passport woes, Rostoem Simons of Simsport Eagles offered him a spot in its team for a Dubai trip. His mother said the team, with George, were ready to leave when the unthinkable happened, once again. Maskini said a week before the Dubai trip in April, she went to the Department of Home Affairs for confirmation that the passport that was given by the deputy minister was active, to avoid further disappointment - but George’s umpteenth attempt at leaving the country was thwarted yet again.

In May, Parliament’s Home Affairs Portfolio Committee intervened and ordered the department to conduct an investigation into what went wrong.

In a report filed in court papers, a psychologist said George felt responsible for the pain that his family are undergoing. The psychologist added that he had lost trust in the world.

George’s mother, Bampende, said: “They are willing to fight for something that they know is wrong, they are really being heartless. George is a strong boy and he’s being getting a lot of support, but he is still just a child.”

The Maskinis have since filed a lawsuit claiming R461 000 in damages, and accusing the department of gross negligence.

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Cape Argus