22 MAY 2023
Deputy Minister of Home Affairs;
Director-General of the Department of Home Affairs;
Commissioner of the Border Management Authority;
Journalists from various media platforms; and
Members of the public.
1. As you are aware the services of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) were enlisted by the law enforcement agencies to establish the identity of Thabo Bester.
2. In pursuance of the mandate, officials of the DHA were part of the multi-disciplinary team that visited the United Republic of Tanzania in April 2023 to facilitate the lawful deportation of Thabo Bester and Dr Nandipha Magudumana back to South Africa. Similarly, the DHA conducted an extensive investigation which included interviewing the biological mother of Thabo Bester, namely Meisie Maria Mabaso (born Bester).
3. The investigation also involved reviewing the birth records of Thabo Bester at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and data stored in the DHA systems. The outcome of the investigation revealed that despite Thabo Bester having attained the age 16 years, he has not applied for an identity card as required in terms of the law.
4. The Director-General took immediate steps in terms of section 17 (2) of the Identification Act 88 of 1997 which reads:
(2) If it comes to the attention of an officer acting in the service of the Department of Home Affairs that a person referred to section 3 who has attained the age of 16 years has not complied with the provisions of section 15 (1), that officer shall take prescribed steps to ensure that that person applies without delay for an identity card in terms of this Act”.
5. Acting in terms of the said section, the Director-General addressed a letter dated 15 May 2023 to Thabo Bester advising him that he has assigned relevant officials to assist him in his application for an identity card. Thabo Bester co-operated with the said officials, who also required his mother to sign the necessary application forms.
6. As a result of the said process, Thabo Bester was issued with the identity card on 17 May 2023. His name has now been entered into National Population Register, thus ending many years of his status as an unidentifiable person.
7. I have obtained the permission of Thabo Bester to show you a copy of his identity card. However, it will not be distributed.
Inmates without identity cards who are citizens or lawfully and permanently resident in South Africa
8. The Thabo Bester saga has brought into sharp focus the issue of other inmates incarcerated in various correctional services facilities, who are in similar position as Thabo Bester. The DHA has agreed with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services to be provided with a complete list of such inmates. Thereafter, the DHA will take steps to ensure that such inmates are issued with identity cards. The DHA is taking these unprecedented steps because identification is at the heart of the security of the country and furthermore, a person without identification could be involved in nefarious and criminal activities undetected.
9. I am aware that there are South Africans who have attained the age of 16 years who never applied for identity cards. I therefore call upon all eligible citizens to apply for identity cards, if and when they attain the age of 16 years.
10. This bring me to another issue that has been published in many media platforms. On 14 April 2023 in the press statement and subsequent interviews. I pointed out that:
“Dr Ntshani deposed an affidavit with the South African Police in 2019 and declared that her passport was stolen.
This is the passport which was still to expire in 2022 and was recently found in Tanzania on the person of Dr Nandipha. On the strength of this passport she acquired a new passport which we said before, will expire in 2029.
On the 27th of March 2023 she deposed another affidavit with the Police but this time stating that she gave her recent valid passport to Dr Nandipha and a Mr TK Nkoana (the assumed name of Thabo Bester) as they were going to apply for a working citizenship in the US”.
11. I accept that Dr Ntshani did not depose to an affidavit when she applied for a passport in 2019 and that there are no conflicting versions in the affidavits deposed by her this year. I therefore retract the above statements and subsequent words to that effect. I would like to extend my sincere apology to her in this regard. The statements were based on the information given to me at the time. It will be seen that the statements conflated the expired passport, the 2019 passport and recent passport applied for in April 2023. I however stand fully by the statements I made that Dr Mmereka Ntshani’s two passports were found in possession of Dr Nandipha Magudumana in the United Republic of Tanzania. I would never apologize for those statements as they are true and were made in the public interest.
Revocation of the passport of Dr Nandipha Magudumana
12. The DHA has obtained legal advice that there are strong legal grounds to revoke the passport of Dr Nandipha Magudumana and that firm action must be taken to that effect.
13. The Director-General will be taking due legal process steps in terms of the South African Passports and Travel Documents Act 4 of 1994 (read with the relevant regulations) to revoke the passport issued to Dr Nandipha Magudumana on 16 February 2017 due to expire on 15 February 2027.
Urgent application launched by Dr Nandipha Magudumana in Bloemfontein
14. There has been media reports regarding the urgent application launched by Dr Nandipha Magudumana in Bloemfontein. The Director-General only managed to access the court papers yesterday late in the afternoon. He was shocked to discover that the DHA and I were not cited as respondents in that matter. This is despite the fact on 15 May 2023, there were exchange of correspondence between the Director- General and Motloung INC, attorneys of record for Dr Nandipha Magudumana.
15. The Director-General immediately addressed a letter dated 21 May 2023 to her attorneys raising objection to the non-joinder of the DHA and I and demanded that the ill-advised application be removed from the urgent roll. The letter corrected the wrong stance adopted that Dr Nandipha Magudumana was unlawfully “abducted” or “extradited” from the United Republic of Tanzania. Dr Nandipha Magudumana and Thabo Bester were declared prohibited immigrants in terms the immigration laws of Tanzania and were therefore as a matter of law, liable to be deported back to their country of origin. The same procedure was followed in respect of the Mozambican national who was in their company. The said letter was circulated to all the parties in the court proceedings in Bloemfontein.
16. I am outlining all these steps because the matters in question are of immense public interest and the DHA has a constitutional duty to adhere to the principles of accountability and transparency.