HEARTBREAK: Bampende Maskini, mother of George Maskini, 13, who is suing Home Affairs for R461 000. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Cape Town - Following a story the Cape Argus newspaper broke, Parliament’s watchdog on Home Affairs has intervened in the ordeal of a 13-year-old boy whose dream of playing international soccer was allegedly scuppered by Home Affairs.

When the plight of 13-year-old George Maskini was first reported in November, his mother Bampendi Maskini told how her soccer-loving son had the opportunity to play in Thailand, only to have his application for a passport bungled by Home Affairs.

She said the problem could not be solved, even when the deputy minister intervened.

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Last week the family indicated that they planned to sue the department for George’s pain and trauma, and for costs it incurred. Now Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs wants an investigation.

“A committee member who saw the Argus article asked us about the experience,” said mum Maskini.

Last year young George’s teacher raised funds for him to participate in a soccer tournament in Phuket, Thailand in November. But then he was told he didn’t qualify for a South African passport because both his parents were from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan stepped in and provided George with a travel document. The document, however, stated that his nationality was South African, in contradiction to its barcode, which identified him as a DRC citizen, and as a result, George could not travel to Thailand.

On hearing of George’s ordeal, Rostoem Simons of Simsport Eagles offered him a place in the team about to embark on a tour of Dubai.

A tearful Bampendi Maskini said that a week before the Dubai trip in April, she went to Home Affairs and was given confirmation that the travel document provided by the deputy minister was in order.

However, on the day of his departure, airport officials would not allow George to board the plane to Dubai.

They said the travel document had been cancelled because it was reported stolen. MPs shook their heads in disbelief while details of the child’s ordeal were told.

“I have said that Home Affairs is developing a reputation as Horror Affairs because of incidences like this. 

“Just imagine this child’s humiliation when he was turned away by the airport officials,” said DA MP Mohammed Haniff Hoosen.

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He went on to say that the family ought to double the damages amount it was seeking from the department.

ANC MP DD Raphuti apologised to the family for what George had endured.

“I am very sorry for what your son has been subjected to,” he said. Portfolio committee chairperson Donald Gumede ordered Home Affairs to conduct an investigation and to present its findings to the committee.

Acting Director-General of Civic Services at Home Affairs Thomas Sigama said: “I am willing to investigate everything thoroughly.

“I appeal to the Maskini family to provide me with copies of the travel document they have in their possession so that I can verify it because I have heard there are problems of systems or outstanding documents.”

The Maskini family have since filed a lawsuit claiming R461 000 and accusing the department of gross negligence.

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Cape Argus