Cape Town - 140610 - Brent Johnson has been separated from his wife, Louise Egedal Johnson, and son, Samuel Egedal Johnson, after they were refused re-entry into the country. Reporter: Ilse Fredericks Picture: David Ritchie (083 652 4951)

Cape Town - Two foreign-born spouses with families in South Africa will have to spend another week separated from their loved ones after being branded “undesirable” by new Home Affairs regulations.

A landmark case began in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday and is expected to set a precedent for cases dealing with “undesirables”.

Two applicants in similar predicaments brought urgent applications.

Judge James Yekiso ruled that it would not cause significant harm if they remained in foreign countries for another while. He postponed the hearing of the urgent application to Tuesday.

First applicant Brent Johnson and his family went on a short holiday to Namibia, only to discover on their return to South Africa that his Danish-born wife, Louise Egedal Johnson, had been labelled “undesirable”.

She had applied to renew her visa in good time, but Home Affairs had not yet issued her a new one. Leaving South Africa on holiday she was fined R1 500. On her return to Cape Town International Airport she was detained for six hours and told to return to Denmark.

Johnson was not allowed to get his wife the essential medication she needed, and had to wave goodbye to her and their 2-year-old son Samuel.

The second applicant, David Henderson, is stuck in Zimbabwe after being branded an “undesirable” for exceeding his work permit. His wife, Cherene Delorie, and 4-year-old son live in Cape Town. It was Dylan’s birthday on Saturday and his dad could not attend it.

Senior counsel William Mokhari appeared on behalf of the director-general and the minister of Home Affairs. He argued that the case should be postponed to give his team time to prepare. In the meantime, he said, the applicants blocked out could stay that way. Mokhari argued that the case was not urgent.

“Is a house on fire? Is somebody dying? She is not in a foreign country; she is in her home country,” he said, speaking of Louise Egedal Johnson.

About Henderson, Mokhari said: “He is basically at home.”

Senior counsel Anton Katz, on behalf of Johnson’s family, and David Borgstrom, representing Henderson and his family, argued that the case dealt with a violation of the constitutional right to family, and should be dealt with immediately.

Failing that, they would settle for a postponement – provided their clients were reunited with their families.

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Cape Argus