Nigerian man’s illegal marriage to young SA woman revoked
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Pretoria - A Nigerian citizen will have to return to his country of birth after South African authorities revoked his citizenship nearly a decade after it was granted.
This was based on allegations that he had illegally married a young South African woman.
It transpired, however, that Antony Nwafor, although apparently telling Home Affairs he was a bachelor at the time of his wedding in this country, was already married to another woman in Nigeria.
Home Affairs also questioned his South African marriage as his “new wife” was underage and needed permission from her parents to get married.
The 57-year-old Nwafor, however, insisted that he never told the department he was a bachelor. According to him, he was divorced from his first wife when he remarried.
He explained that shortly after “a church blessing” between him and his first wife, a “serious material issue” occurred which affected the relationship, resulting in the immediate dissolution of the marriage.
He said he had married his second wife, a South African citizen, legally soon afterwards. According to him, she had just turned 18 and her mother gave her blessing to the union.
Thus, Nwafor said, he and his children who came with him from Nigeria were allowed South African citizenship.
The issue arose after Home Affairs revoked his citizenship after discovering that it was afforded to him under questionable circumstances.
Nwafor turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, to challenge this.
Judge Sulet Potterill, however, earlier dismissed his arguments and found that the department acted within its rights and followed all the procedures when it revoked his citizenship.
Nwafor applied for leave to appeal against the ruling, but Judge Potterill refused. He then turned to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which also refused him leave to appeal.
The court was told that Nwafor was born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1965. He acquired South African citizenship upon being granted a certificate of naturalisation by Home Affairs in 2009 after he first obtained a permanent residence permit on the strength of his marriage to a South African citizen in 2003.
In 2016, years after obtaining his citizenship, the department informed him that it was going to withdraw this as he had “obtained the permanent residence permit by means of false representation”.
The department said this was because he was still married when he exchanged vows with his young wife while claiming he was a bachelor. In any case, the department said, his second wife was a minor and needed permission for the union – all allegations which were denied by him.
Nwafor said he had followed all the required procedures when he applied for permanent residence and citizenship.
Regarding his first marriage, he said they experienced marital problems shortly after the ceremony. In a bid to resolve their problems, they attended the Our Saviour Church in Lagos, where their marriage was blessed. But the marital problems persisted, and he said they were thus “divorced”.
Soon afterwards, he came to South Africa to marry his new bride.
Home Affairs then discovered that he had “married” his South African wife less than two months after he got married to his first wife. According to the authorities, he was still very much married to his first wife when he married his second wife.
The Supreme Court said as there was no valid explanation as to how he managed to get hold of this permanent residence permit under these circumstances, the inference that it was obtained through fraudulent means, as claimed by Home Affairs, was not unreasonable.
The deportation is not his first brush with the law. In 2015, Nwafor was arrested on a charge of fraud after allegedly posing as a medical doctor in Pretoria and Limpopo.
However, his legal team insisted that he was qualified to practise as a doctor.
He was arrested after a lengthy operation in which the Limpopo Department of Health, the SAPS anti-corruption unit and Home Affairs worked together to nab him.
Nwafor claimed that he had worked for the Department of Health in Limpopo at Mecklenburg Hospital from 2003 to 2005.
He said he also worked as a specialist physician in Pretoria.