18 April 2017

South Africa: Home Affairs Clarifies Issue of DRC National

Pretoria — The Department of Home Affairs has noted media reports regarding a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Paul Joseph Mukungubila, who had entered South Africa as an asylum seeker.

Mukungubila applied for asylum on 5 March 2014 and was issued with a temporary asylum seeker permit pending finalisation of his application for refugee status in the Republic.

He regards himself as a politician and religious leader. His organisation is called Ministry for the Restoration from Black Africa (MRAN).

Mukungubila claims that he is regarded by adherents of his faith as a man of God who possesses revelatory powers about the future of the nation.

He alleges his organisation has been in existence since 1977. This organisation, however, has no constitution, but sources its rules within the New Testament Scriptures. It has loose structures and consists of only 1200 members in the DRC.

On 5 May 2014, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development issued a notification under Section 5(1)(a) of the Extradition Act, 1962 (Act 67 of 1962), that Mukungubila be extradited to the DRC to stand trial on a charge of murder in terms of Articles 43 and 44 of the Criminal Code of the DRC and a charge of malicious destruction in terms of Article 110 and 112 of the Criminal Code of the DRC, among other charges.

According to an Interpol (International Criminal Police Organization) report sent to the Refugee Status Determination Officer, Mukungubila has been investigated by the Interpol on request of the DRC. He was subsequently arrested in Johannesburg on 15 May 2014.

Mukungubila was advised pursuant to his application for refugee status that his application was rejected on the basis of Section 4(1)(a) and (b) of the Refugee Act 130 of 1998, which is essentially an exclusion clause.

"In terms of this section, any asylum seeker who is found to be either a fugitive from justice or is accused of having committed gross human rights violations is excluded from applying for asylum in the Republic," the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

The DRC had made allegations of gross human rights violations against Mukungubila and, as a consequence, requested Interpol to facilitate his extradition to the DRC. The extradition application against him was therefore granted.

Following the department's rejection of his application for asylum, Mukungubila reviewed the decision of the department and the matter was heard at the South Gauteng High Court sitting in Johannesburg on 17 October 2016.

On 13 March 2017, the Court ruled that the department should allow Mukungubila to apply for asylum and halted extradition proceedings pending finalisation of his asylum application.

The essence of this judgement is that Mukungubila cannot be excluded, that he has a right to be heard, and that the department should make a decision after hearing him out.

"The department is unhappy with this judgement, as, respectfully, the Court did not appreciate the intent of Section 4 of the Refugee Act, thus making this section of the law redundant.

"It is on this basis that on 13 April 2017, the department filed an application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, or alternatively to the full bench of the Gauteng Division of the High Court," the department said.

Currently, the department is awaiting the outcome of its application for leave to appeal. This application (for leave to appeal) has the effect of staying the judgement of the High Court, pending its finalisation. In essence, this means that Paul Joseph Mukungubila, a DRC national, does not have status in South Africa.

However, to ensure he does not get into trouble with the law, the department has been issuing him with a notice to appear before an immigration officer, a notice of which does not accord him status in the Republic.

The department will continue to issue him with this notice, in terms of the immigration regulations (Form 23), pending finalisation of all court proceedings.

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