After nearly a decade’s wait for permanent residency approval by the Department of Home Affairs, a United Kingdom (UK) pensioner has been assisted by the courts to have his application approved.
The Western Cape High Court has ordered the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to issue the UK pensioner permanent residency in South Africa after the department denied such an application without proper reasoning.
The decision by high court judge Elizabeth Baartman was made after she noted that the department “persists with an obstructive attitude and expects the court to condone the abuse” after the pensioner, who owns an unbonded R3.5 million St James property with a monthly income, could provide all documents meeting requirements for his permanent residency to be approved.
Judge Baartman said the department’s mysterious verification process, which they would not take the court into confidence with, and their “inexplicable tardiness” contributed to her decision.
The pensioner had bought the property in St James, Cape Town in 2006 without the assistance of a bond and in 2015, applied for permanent residency in the country with his now ex-wife.
In his 2015 application, he had declared to the Home Affairs Department that he owned four United Kingdom properties, from which he received revenue each month as it was being rented out.
This declaration of income along with other documents needed for the application included police clearance certificates, medical certificates, and proof of ownership of his overseas properties.
However, six years after his application in 2021, the department sought from him “within five working days”, forms to verify his funds/assets in respect of his permanent residency application.
By this time, the pensioner had already disposed of three of his overseas properties and had in the meantime become a pensioner who received a lump sum from the Connells Group Pension Scheme administered by Mecer in the UK and from which he now receives monthly instalments.
“The department has had ample opportunity to clarify the verification process.
“This was so that a court can assess whether it is appropriate to refer the matter back.
“The Department has been in possession of the application since 2015; that is an extraordinary amount of time to process a retirement resident application where the legislation is uncomplicated and the information supplied apparently readily verifiable.
I say this mindful that the Department has in recent years been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of applications.
“However, the Department has not cited a lack of capacity to complete the verification process.
“In this matter, the applicant has put up bank statements from the UK and South African financial institutions from which the flow of his cash is apparent.”
“Even after the matter was postponed for heads of argument, the respondents did not place an explanatory affidavit before court; instead, they simply instructed their legal representative to request that the matter be remitted to them. That request, 8 years later, without any explanation of what the verification process entails is unreasonable,” said Baartman.
In response to the outcome, DHA spokesperson, Thabo Mokgola, said: “The Minister is still engaging with the document. We will issue a statement and engage thereafter.”