Frederik Ngubane, a stateless man who took Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to court, has had his application for permanent residence denied because he could not prove his citizenship. The decision means that Ngubane cannot legally enter or remain in any country, including South Africa.
Ngubane’s lawyer, Liesl Muller of the NGO Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR), said the reason provided by the Home Affairs did not make sense. “This is the very reason we were advised by Home Affairs to apply for residence [rather than citizenship] in the first place,” she said.
“Home Affairs rejected his application with a two paragraph letter, not even providing a proper reason. They have also not provided any insight on what they intend to do with him now that he is not allowed to stay in South Africa, but cannot go anywhere else,” said Muller.
Muller said LHR will immediately approach the court for a judicial review of the decision and ask for Ngubane to be granted citizenship or the right of residence.
On Tuesday, Times Live reported that Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba was in contempt of a court order issued by the High Court in Pretoria in August, which had directed him to decide whether Ngubane could live in South Africa as a permanent resident within 30 days . Gigaba was given five days to reach his decision, after which he would have been subject to a fine or made to serve prison time, should the matter not be resolved.
Ngubane has been trying to resolve the matter of his statelessness since 2010. According to Accra-based news site Ghana MMA, Ngubane was born in South Africa and emigrated to Kenya and then Uganda as a child. Both of his parents died and in 2009 he returned to South Africa after a four month long journey, first arriving in Newcastle, KwaZulu Natal, where had had family. Ngubane lost his birth certificate – the only document proving his identity – soon after arriving in South Africa and was arrested. Officials tried to have him deported but neither the Ugandan nor the Kenyan embassies would accept him and because he was born in South Africa, he was denied asylum here.
South Africa had pledged to sign and ratify two UN conventions on statelessness, which aim to strengthen the international legal framework for the prevention and reduction of statelessness and to protect stateless people around the world, by the end of 2013. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the LHR are calling for this pledge to be honoured and for relevant legislation to be established.
The Department of Home Affairs could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.