Alex Ruta, formerly part of the civilian arm of the republican guards in Rwanda’s National Security Services (NSS), has pleaded with the apex court to thwart Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s “constitutionally suicidal mission”.
He warned that should he be deported to Rwanda, he would suffer denigration as a human worthy of protection against threats to his life and persecution.
In his affidavit filed at the Constitutional Court, Ruta, who is represented by the Lawyers for Human Rights, stated he arrived in South Africa in 2014 to link up with an NSS agent.
But he soon realised his mission was to kill members of the exiled opposition Rwanda National Congress (RNC).
“It was at this stage that, for the first time since I was directed to travel to the country, I was made aware of the nature of my trip to South Africa.
“I started to panic and resolved to distance myself from the NSS agent, lest I be used to kill any RNC members. As a result, I started to avoid the NSS agent’s calls,” Ruta said.
He claimed to have had a change of heart and informed the Hawks about the planned hit and was placed on the witness protection programme.
The safe house he was placed in was attacked by unknown gunmen, and the Hawks removed him to a bed and breakfast in Tshwane.
Ruta was arrested in 2016 after starting to work to supplement the programme’s insufficient allowance.
He was arrested for possession of a fraudulent asylum-seeker’s permit, driving an unlicensed motorcycle without a license and being an illegal foreigner.
Upon conviction for being in the country illegally after the possession of fraudulent refugee documents charge was withdrawn, Ruta was jailed for a month.
After his release, he was sent to the Lindela Repatriation Centre pending deportation.
Ruta later launched a high court action in Pretoria to challenge proceedings to deport him.
In November 2016, Judge Neil Tuchten ordered the Home Affairs Department to release Ruta and allow him to apply for a temporary asylum-seeker’s permit.
However, the department approached the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), which overturned Tuchten’s decision in December last year.
Ruta described the SCA judgment as a dangerous precedent.
“If the decision of the SCA, which I seek to appeal, is anything to go by, the respondent (Gigaba) in this case has been given a licence to disregard the constitutional considerations and to present me on a silver platter to the government of Rwanda, without due regard to what is to happen to me,” read Ruta’s affidavit.
“Put otherwise, the SCA was asked to determine whether the respondent could reasonably and lawfully detain me (for) deportation purposes and deport me to Rwanda without regard to whether doing so would expose me to the risk of persecution,” he added.
Ruta insisted that even the Constitution and the country’s jurisprudence required the opposite and imposed a duty to prevent exposure to persecution or to threats to life unless the safety of the deportee was assured.
Judge Tuchten found that were Rwanda’s criminal justice system to regard his refusal to assassinate identified members of the exiled RNC as a crime, then the court could not under such circumstances strongly exclude the possibility that this was political ground when applying and possibly gaining asylum.
Gigaba had until next month to respond to Ruta’s application and the matter was scheduled to be heard in November.