Home Affairs told to consider case of stateless Lesotho-born man living in SA for 40 years

Thandeka Chauke of Lawyers for Human Rights and Mr K. Picture: Supplied

Thandeka Chauke of Lawyers for Human Rights and Mr K. Picture: Supplied

Published Sep 8, 2022


Pretoria - A man who has lived in South Africa for 40 years after he fled here in the early 1980s following the political assassination of his father is one step closer to officially calling the country his home.

He had been rendered stateless, both here and in his country of birth, Lesotho. This meant that he could not work lawfully here or open a bank account.

Identified only as Mr K, as he asked the Pretoria News not to divulge his identity (although he did not mind his picture being published), he had been unsuccessful in his struggle with Home Affairs for several years to provide him with an identity.

The department ignored his pleas, and he turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria this week in a bid to be heard. The court ordered the department to consider his application to legalise his stay here within 30 days.

In the interim, it must unblock his ID or grant him authorisation which will allow him to live and work lawfully in South Africa.

Mr K told the Pretoria News no one wanted to be undocumented or stateless because this had devastating consequences and affected one’s dignity.

“I am now at peace, and I am going to fight till the end, for the sake of my children,” he said.

He was assisted by the Statelessness Project of Lawyers for Human Rights.

Nothando Shongwe of the organisation said statelessness did not affect only non-South Africans.

“We have so many South Africans who are undocumented because their identity documents are marked or blocked and they found themselves at risk of being stateless.

According to her, the systemic delays and maladministration at Home Affairs play a role in generating illegality.

“While people have applied for visas and permits and are waiting for Home Affairs to finalise its investigation on their nationality and/or rights to hold an identity document, life continues, children are born who then inherit the unfortunate status of being undocumented or with irregular status in South Africa.”

In the early 1990s, ahead of the first democratic elections in 1994, the department issued Mr K with an ID document, which was renewed in 2010 and he was issued with a passport.

These gave him the legitimate belief that he had been granted South African citizenship, and that he had established a life in South Africa.

For decades he continued to live and work in South Africa, he voted in every election since the 1994 elections, he married and started a family in South Africa. South Africa was home.

In 2014 he discovered Home Affairs had invalidated his documentation by blocking or marking his ID.

He discovered this after his bank account was frozen and he was directed to make an inquiry at the department.

He was told the department decided to do this as he was suspected of being an “illegal foreigner”.

His attempts to explain how he had obtained the documentation and to get the block or marker lifted were unsuccessful.

To make matters worse, Mr K was told by the Lesotho authorities that he was no longer recognised as a citizen of that country. He was thus stateless.

He has been living in a legal limbo since 2014.

He lives in constant fear of arrest and detention.

Pretoria News