Pretoria - A former assistant director at the Department of Home Affairs, who comes from the Congo, once again failed in his legal bid to be regarded as a South African citizen, after the department revoked his citizenship as it was, among others, found that his marriage to a South African woman was a sham.
The manner in which Mahinga Mbemba obtained South African citizenship, and his employment by the department, had been under investigation by Home Affairs since 2007.
The department claimed that his certificate of naturalisation was fraudulently obtained on the basis of a marriage that was not above board, and that he had concealed other facts.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria earlier ruled in Mbemba’s favour and found that Home Affairs had unfairly revoked his citizenship. The department took the matter on appeal before the high court and won its case.
But Mbemba took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), where he once again lost his case.
Five judges of the SCA concluded that he did obtain his citizenship in a fraudulent manner.
Home Affairs revoked his citizenship in 2016, and simultaneously terminated his employment with the department.
Mbemba had since then turned to the courts to have the department’s decision overturned.
He maintained all along that the department’s decision to deprive him of his South African citizenship was unreasonable and irrational.
Mbemba was born in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
There is a dispute as to when and how he arrived in South Africa, and what he did, once he was in South Africa.
Records showed that he arrived in the country early 1996.
He applied and obtained an asylum seeker permit, which had to be renewed every three months.
Three years later he married a South African woman and applied for permanent residence on the basis of his marriage. This was granted in 2001, and three years later, he succeeded in obtaining his citizenship.
But at that stage there were already problems in his marriage and his wife, who had left him, gave birth to another man’s child four months later.
Mbemba meanwhile renounced his Congolese citizenship.
After obtaining the permanent residence permit he was appointed as an administrative clerk at the Refugee Reception Centre in Pretoria.
He was later promoted to the post of assistant director.
When he applied for employment at the department, Mbemba submitted his CV as part of his application. Under work experience, he stated, among other things, that he worked at the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Pretoria for two years – from 1998 to 2000, after which he claimed he was retrenched.
While working in a senior position at the department, the latter investigated his credentials following a tip-off by an anonymous member of the public that all was not above board.
Six years later the department issued him with a letter in which it said that its investigations revealed a number of discrepancies in his application for citizenship, such as when and how he entered the country.
His earlier application for asylum as well as the legitimacy of his marriage was questioned. The department also alleged that he falsely registered several children on his personal and salary system.
The letter concluded that it was evident that he was “an illegal foreigner, whose only two options to remain in the RSA, as such, were to apply for asylum or to go into a marriage of convenience”.
All these allegations were vehemently denied by Mbemba, who said he married his wife for love.
He said only the department could explain how children, of whom he knew nothing about, ended up being linked to him.
The department meanwhile also established that when Mbemba initially applied for asylum, he claimed that he came to South Africa as his life was in danger in the DRC. Home Affairs established that this was not true.
The SCA concluded that home affairs was within its right to revoke Mbemba’s citizenship.