Govt must comply with court orders or face jail Ilse de Lange –The Citizen  17.7.2015

An urgent court order granted in the North Gauteng High Court this week made it clear judges will not tolerate government officials ignoring court orders.

Judge Segopotje Mphahlele granted an order which would have seen the director-general and deputy director-general of Home Affairs go to jail for three months unless they complied with a court order granted a month ago in favour of a Chinese academic who grew up in South Africa.

Dr Yingwen Zhang, a post-doctoral fellow at the CSIR National Laser Centre in Pretoria, last month obtained an urgent court order forcing Home Affairs to issue a South African passport or emergency passport to him.

When Home Affairs officials simply ignored the order, he asked the court to imprison Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni and deputy director-general Vusumuzi Mkhize unless they complied with it. Judge Mphahlele gave them 48 hours to comply, failing which she ordered the sheriff to arrest Apleni and Mkhize and hand them to Pretoria Central Prison to be detained for three months. She also granted a punitive costs order against them.

The two barely made the deadline and Zhang’s attorney only received a message yesterday that he could collect his passport. Zhang was born in China, but came to South Africa in 1994, was granted a certificate of naturalisation in 2003 and obtained a passport in 2004. But Home Affairs refused to let him apply for a new passport when it expired as he was “under investigation”.

His attorney Andries Stander said in an affidavit officials in the department were powerless to issue the passport because Apleni and Mkhize refused to provide them with the authorisation. “(Their) conduct … is yet another example of senior government officials who in a contemptuous manner flout the constitution and the laws of the Republic of South Africa by wilfully and without any justification failing to comply with a valid and binding court order. Public interest demands … that such unlawful behaviour be dealt with swiftly,” he said.

Zhang missed two major international conferences, was unable to visit his research collaborators in Canada and would miss the largest conference on laser technology in America next year unless he had a passport.

A sad indictment of heartless South African Home Affairs…

When a judge, writing in July 2015, says the treatment of an individual in a case he’s been hearing is one of the worst since the advent of democracy, you pay attention. Who is this person who has been treated so badly? What happened, and who was responsible for abuse that shocked even a hardened judge? Emeka Christian Okonkwo is a Nigerian trader. It’s an undisputed fact that he’s in South Africa quite lawfully. He had a little shop in East London where he sold cellphones and gold chains for which he was properly licensed. But on 3 August 2012 his world turned upside down: He was summarily picked up and detained by officials of the Department of Home Affairs, long a byword for high-handed abuse of individuals and of an equally high-handed disregard for the law.

 

They pretended that they had a warrant for his arrest – a blatant lie as it turned out. Then they locked him up in Fort Glamorgan prison, turned their backs and walked away. For 75 days he languished there, completely cut off from family and friends. No one except the officials who incarcerated him knew where he was. He wasn’t charged or taken to court. He wasn’t told why he was being locked up or what he was supposed to have done wrong. In fact, as Judge Phakamisa Tshiki said later, those who locked him up never had any intention to take him to court, and it was the clearest case he had seen of malicious arrest and detention. Okonkwo might still be there if it hadn’t been for an alert prison warden – someone who should be nominated for a human rights award – who took an interest in this man, imprisoned for no apparent reason. Thanks to that intervention Okonkwo was ultimately simply let go, without ever having appeared in court or being informed of what sin he was supposed to have committed. But the abuse of Okonkwo continued even after his release. Not surprisingly he sued the Department of Home Affairs, but did the department admit its officers were culpable and offer to make amends? No way. They fought the case as though some high principle were at stake, forcing Okonkwo to go through every legal hoop until the matter was about to be heard as a full trial. Only then, with court dates settled and the matter about to proceed, did they cave in and admit that his arrest and detention were unlawful and that they were liable to pay damages of whatever amount a court found appropriate, as well as his legal costs. When the question of the actual damages was argued, the two parties couldn’t agree on the appropriate compensation he should be awarded and the issue had to be decided via a full-blown trial. Okonkwo was the only witness. The department, despite fiercely defending the matter, led no evidence whatsoever. Okonkwo told a sorry tale of how his life as fallen apart as a result of his unlawful detention. His wife and child are both lost to him. She left him and his child has gone, too, because he couldn’t take care of them while he was locked up. The arrest in his shop was made more humiliating as it was witnessed by his family, neighbours and others. His experience in the cells was not only humiliating, it was terrifying as well, with other prisoners attempting to rape him.

 

For 75 days he had no bed, he couldn’t eat the food provided, there was competition for the toilets. The whole place stank. Perhaps the most outrageous part of the whole story, however, is the two-part argument put up on behalf of the department to explain why Okonkwo should be paid far less in damages than he claimed: The court was ‘dealing with public funds’, said counsel for the department; moreover the court had to weigh up what was appropriate to award as damages considering Okonkwo’s ‘standing in society’. The implication of the second part of the argument was that he was a nobody, a mere Nigerian trader, and he should therefore be satisfied with less compensation than would be awarded to an important person. Such an argument speaks volumes about the department’s understanding of the Bill of Rights and the guarantee of equality in our Constitution. As for the first part of the argument, that public funds that would be used to pay damages to Okonkwo – there is a solution to the problem, namely that the responsible officials pay the damages out of their own pocket. In the end Judge Tshiki, who heard the case in the High Court, East London, called the way the department handled the litigation ‘reprehensible in the extreme’, awarded Okonkwo damages of R750 000 plus legal costs. There’s deep irony to the timing of judgment in this case. It was delivered 800 years, to the very month, after the signing of the Magna Carta, that charter which has so fundamentally shaped our views of human rights over the centuries, and which is one of the influences that led ultimately to such other documents as South Africa’s Constitution. Here, for example, is Chapter 39 of the Magna Carta: No man shall be taken or imprisoned, or dispossessed or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined, nor will we go or send against him except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. For 800 years that has been a touchstone by which a government could be judged. In the case of Okonkwo, however, you see a man taken and imprisoned, dispossessed of his family not to mention his financial losses, completely without sanction by the law of the land.

 

It’s a damning indictment of the Department of Home Affairs, its officials and the broader government that continues to allow this department to behave as though the Constitution did not exist. Actually, since our money will pay for this atrocity, it’s also an indictment of the public.

 

Unless we speak up, urging that officials who flagrantly defy the law pay for their misdeeds out of their own pockets, and that legal action is taken against them where appropriate, we are unavoidably complicit in their crimes. That, at any rate, is my view. and in this, the first of what will be a fortnightly column, I put it forward for debate. My intention in A Matter of Justice is to highlight judgments and other legal issues through which we can see more clearly where we’ve come from and where we’re going. My hope is that these columns, with the discussion that hopefully follows, will help contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of our Constitution as well as the democratic society, founded on the rule of law, that we want to create.

 

Okonkwo v Minister of Home Affairs & another

Article written by Carmel Rickard

 

Research shows impact of new visa laws

The new South African visa regulations implemented last year and the recent child visa laws are indeed affecting the local tourism industry and GDP, according to research.

The research, done on the behalf of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), is published in a report prepared by Grant Thornton entitled “TBCSA’s Report on the Impact of the New Immigration Regulations on the Travel and Tourism Industry”.

So what were the findings?

The report found that the new immigration regulations are in fact negatively affecting South Africa’s tourist industry and GDP.

“The total direct, indirect and induced impact on the South African economy in 2014 was a negative R2.6-billion and a potential loss of more than 5 800 jobs,” the report said.

This includes a R886-million loss of direct tourist spend for the tourism industry.

However, the true impact of the regulations remains to be seen.

” In 2015, the number of lost foreign tourists due to changes in the immigration regulations is likely to increase to 100 000, with a direct tourism spend of R1.4-billion and the total net loss to the South African GDP of around R4.1-billion and a loss of 9 300 jobs,” the report said.

“The amendments to the visa regulations have had, and will continue to have, a significant negative impact on South Africa’s tourism industry and the economy as a whole.”

The researchers suggested that the regulations for the collection of biometric data be put on hold and that a “biometrics on arrival” system rather be implemented.

The report also recommends that a visitor-friendly visa regime be implemented.

Original article on iafrica.com

From the Horse’s Mouth – Cameroon

FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH **

Contributions by our very own Jacob Kuh and Benjamin Nwall in Cameroon
Facts you did not know about Cameroon (Cameroon, officially the Republic of Cameroon on the Gulf of Guinea, is a Central African country of varied terrain and wildlife. Its inland capital, Yaoundé, and its biggest city, the seaport Douala, are transit points to ecotourism sites as well as beach resorts like Kribi – near the Chutes de la Lobé waterfalls, which plunge directly into the sea – and Limbe, home to a wildlife centre.)

 

1. How are birthdays celebrated?
Birthdays are either celebrated quietly with a cake and a few friends and family members, or a feast is organised and friends, family, and colleagues are invited to rejoice with the person celebrating. Birthday feasts are mostly organised over weekends.

2. When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?
In Cameroon, it is not polite to offer a handshake to a person who is your senior. The junior will say good morning or afternoon and wait for the senior to offer his or her hand. It is not also advisable to shake the hand of a senior person whilst wearing a cap or hat – while your right hand reaches out to the hand being offered, your left hand should be used to remove the hat or cap.

3. What languages are spoken in your country?
French and English are the two official languages in Cameroon. The country has ten regions, eight are Francophone and two Anglophone. While these are the two official languages, Cameroon is home to about 230 ethnic groups and each group has its own language; therefore about 230 local languages are spoken in Cameroon.

4. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?
Due to the bilingual nature of the country, both the twelve and twenty-four hour clocks are used. The Francophones use the twenty-four hour clock while the Anglophones use the twelve hour clock.

5. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in Cameroon?
In Cameroon people drive on the right-hand side of the road. Driving is really different from one town to another. In Douala, the commercial capital, driving is very hectic. You must have a valid driving license of course and your car must be in good shape. We also have lots of motorbikes which makes it difficult to drive as they don’t really respect rules and regulations. The roads are not good, even in the major cities such as Douala and Yaounde. It is quite common to be stuck in traffic for anything from two to four hours at any given time.

6. How important is punctuality?
Punctuality is commonly not very important and ‘African Time’ is the order of the day. Most people will generally be 30 minutes to 1 hour late and will routinely blame traffic jams for this.
For official and government appointments, however, you are expected to be punctual.

7. What types of music are popular? Who are some of your most popular musicians?
Makossa and Bikutsi traditionally used to be the popular music forms in Cameroon. The advent of globalisation, however, brought many musical genres to Cameroon. For example hip-hop, R&B, Congolese rhumba and music from Nigeria.
Some musicians presently popular in our country:
Petit Pays – Watch
Manu Dibango – Watch
Richard Bona – Watch
and Charlotte Dipanda – Watch

8. Are there any Traditional Dances?
As mentioned earlier, Cameroon has more than two hundred ethnic groups and each group has their own traditional dance. Here are examples of a couple of traditional dances:
the Bakan Pygmies Dance – Watch
the Assiko (Bassa traditional dance) – Watch

9. What traditional Festivals are celebrated in your community?
The Batanga community of Kribi celebrates Mayi on the 9 of May every year – Click here.
The Duala community celebrates Ngondo each year on the Wourri river shores – Click here

10. What are your seasons like?
Cameroon has two seasons, a rainy and dry season. In the southern part of the country, the rainy season lasts up to nine months – generally April to November/December. Interestingly the 4th most rainy city in the world, Debudscha, is found in the South West Region of Cameroon: Click here
And the dry season lasts only three months – generally December/January to March.
In the northern part of the country the dry season can last about ten months while the rainy season can last just two months.
11. Tell us an interesting fact about your President?
Paul Barthélemy Biya’a bi Mvondo known as Paul Biya was born on the 13 February 1933. On 6 November 1982 he was selected to be the second president of Cameroon since the country’s Independence after the resignation of the first president Amadou Ahidjo. Mr Biya is one of the longest serving presidents on the African continent and is considered to be a key player in the central Africa region. He made headlines lately when he decided to fight the terrorist group Boko Haram, joining forces with Nigeria Chad and Niger.
He has a young wife with three children.
12. What are Cameroon’s major industries?
Agriculture is the major industry (cocoa and coffee mainly but also vegetables and fruit).
The country also produces oil and gas.
13. How do people spend their free time?
In cities, people spend time in their homes with occasional visits to friends or family and trips to Limbe and Kribi over week-ends during the sunny season. Whilst in the rural areas, people spend time chatting about politics and many other topics over a bottle of white wine or locally made spirit. People like gossiping – we call it kongossa in Cameroon.
14. What do people drink?
What people drink in Cameroon depends on their pockets. The majority go for locally made drinks like white wine made from palm tree (matango) or locally made spirits (odontol, arki). Meanwhile those who can afford it drink beer – some favourites are Guinness, Heineken and Kadji. South African wines are also quite popular.
15. What is a popular local dish?
It is very difficult to pinpoint one popular dish in Cameroon. Each region may have one or two popular dishes. However, Poisson Braisé/Roasted Fish seems to be a dish found nationwide.

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And the very popular breakfast of Beignets Haricots/Puff Puff & Beans (Puff Puff or Pof Pof are fried balls made mainly from flour and yeast and they are yummy)

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16. What do you pay for? (Euro 1 = XAF 655)
In a restaurant… A cup of coffee – 1,5 euros , a Coca Cola – 2 euros
A 2-Course meal for 2 people – nothing extravagant – 15 euros
At a shop… A loaf of bread – 0.2 euros, a local newspaper – 0.8 euros Milk from 2 to 5 euros
17. Security – in general?
People visiting the far north, north Adamoua and eastern regions of Cameroon should be mindful of their safety. The Boko Haram group and rebel groups from the Central African Republic have made these areas unstable. The rest of Cameroon, however, is generally relatively safe and the main cities, Douala and Yaoundé are very lively with people enjoying going out at night. The surrounding cities like Kribi, Limbe, where people like go to relax and enjoy the sea are also safe.

** Meaning: From the highest authority. From the source.
Origin: In horse racing circles tips on which horse is a likely winner circulate amongst punters. The most trusted authorities are considered to be those in closest touch with the recent form of the horse, that is, stable lads, trainers etc. The notional ‘from the horse’s mouth’ is supposed to indicate one step better than even that inner circle, that is, the horse itself

GHANA (Country risk rating: Medium); 22 June; Tensions high in Accra following violent protests

Tensions are currently high in Ghana‘s capital, Accra, where security forces clashed with thousands of demonstrators protesting against the demolition of the city’s Old Fadama informal settlement on 22 June. The violence, which involved protesters throwing stones at police and security forces reciprocating with teargas and live ammunition, centred on the Old Fadama informal settlement and the offices of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly. Although the situation has reportedly been brought under control, security forces are yet to continue with their demolition of the informal settlement. Any further such attempts are likely to elicit further violent protests by local residents which are likely to be centred on the Old Fadama informal settlement and surrounding areas. Clients in Accra are advised to monitor local developments, avoid all street gatherings and ensure that itineraries are kept flexible to accommodate for any potential travel delays.