All a South African woman who is living and working in the US wants for Christmas is a document from the department of home affairs.
After 11 months of “silence” and an urgent court application, the department has finally issued her with an unabridged birth certificate to allow her to stay in the US.
However, if Nomboniso Busakwe does not receive the precious document by Tuesday, she faces losing her job and being deported back to SA.
Following urgent court proceedings in the Pretoria high court, her South African attorney was informed there is not one but two certificates available: one in the US — a four-hour flight away from where she lives — and one in Johannesburg.
Attorney Sihle Mdludla told TimesLIVE both document were in the hands of courier companies, but with no guarantees they would be delivered in time.
“It will be sad if she is deported because of this sloppy behaviour.”
Busakwe, however, remains hopeful. She said she had been in tears for weeks and felt let down by her own country, but said Mdludla had worked tirelessly and “deserved a medal”.
Born in Soweto and raised by her maternal grandparents, who were involved in the struggle against apartheid, Busakwe and her daughter began visiting the US in 2013.
She met her husband Timothy Kelley in the US and moved to Georgia, where she works as a shop assistant, in 2019.
It will be sad if she is deported because of this sloppy behaviour.
Attorney Sihle Mdludla
In papers submitted in an urgent Pretoria high court application last Thursday to compel home affairs to issue her with the unabridged certificate, she said she applied for the certificate in January this year at the SA embassy in Washington DC.
She needed it to apply for US citizenship through marriage because her work permit would expire in December 2020.
When she received no correspondence about the issue — and with the deadline looming — in October she hired Mdludla to act on her behalf.
In his affidavit in the urgent court proceedings last Thursday, Mdludla said he visited the home affairs offices in Kempton Park three times but did not receive assistance.
He was eventually told that because the application had been made at an international embassy, only the department’s head office could help.
In November he spoke to the acting chief director of legal services, who promised to assist. He then referred Mdludla to another senior official, who never got back to him.
In desperation late last month, he sent a letter to home affairs minister Dr Aaron Mosoaledi, asking for his urgent intervention.
“To date there has been no response,” Mdludla said.
After serving the court papers on the department, Mdludla said he was again contacted by legal services and told they wanted to settle the matter. He was told to report to the department’s Centurion offices last week. Again he left empty-handed.
My client is vulnerable in a foreign land. This surely can’t be what constitutes a caring government anchored on human dignity as envisaged by the constitution.
“It has been 11 months with no word. The department has been completely uncooperative. My client is vulnerable in a foreign land. This surely can’t be what constitutes a caring government anchored on human dignity as envisaged by the constitution,” he said.
“I can see the Covid-19 pandemic may have caused a delay, but some form of communication would have assisted because my client would have been able to plead with the US department of homeland security.”
Mdludla told the Sunday Times on Friday his client was advised the document was at the embassy in the US — “and it seems it may have been there for some time without them informing her”.
He had also been advised that it was being printed at the Centurion office. It was delivered to Mdludla late on Friday.
Ministerial spokesperson Siya Qoza said the department had complied with the court order.
“We confirm a settlement out of court was discussed between her legal representative and the state attorney. However, due to misunderstanding the matter proceeded in court in the absence of counsel for the department.
“The delay in reissuing the birth certificate was as a result of certain security measures to be undertaken. South African nationals who are abroad and have applied for home affairs services can ask for update on their applications from the email addresses email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.”
TimesLIVE (TMG Digital)