We are encouraged by our access to and engagement with government officials, however, these deliberations should be meaningful and should yield results that protect all. Paul Semugoma is a medical doctor by profession, and has been a global advocate on HIV prevention, health for key populations-particularly Men who have sex with men-and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as well as broader human rights issues. Paul has been left frustrated and stranded at OR Tambo International Airport, where he faces deportation to either Zimbabwe or Uganda the country of his birth, where the president has promised to sign the Anti homosexuality Bill passed by parliament in 2013 into law, and currently has a volatile social and political climate that would be hostile towards Paul should he be returned there.
The South Gauteng High court has in the past dealt with the matter between Dr. Paul Semugoma and the Minister of Home Affairs and others. The High Court Judge has issued a court order which calls on the Minister of Home Affairs to interdict and is compelled to release Dr. Paul Semugoma.
Despite efforts and evidence led by Advocate Yusuf Saloojee together with Webber Wentzel, civil society organisations and activists in and outside South Africa, the department has failed to obey the rule of law. As Civil Society Sectors and organisations we are deeply concerned with the manner in which the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is conducting itself with regards to Paul Semugoma’s case. Paul has been in the custody of immigration for the past three days, without a change of clothes no consistent meals provided.
We are further concerned that the Government department chose to ignore the call made by Judge Mabuse for Paul’s immediate release. Following a series of engagements with key departmental officials within, and further notifying the Office of the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on the matter has left us with no choice but to resolve the issue with actions centred on the fulfilment, protection and promotion of human rights, and adherence to the rule of law in South Africa.
“This is unacceptable, the department is entitled to appeal this matter however not disrespect the rule of law. The Director General is aware of this matter and knows the implications there of about the situation in Uganda for human rights defender, and they have now politicised this matter. They have failed to comply within their own regulatory of issuing Paul with a permit. We will challenge this again in court and civil society organisations needs to mobilise and build solidarity around injustices of immigration systems” said Steve Letsike, Civil Society Chairperson of South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
“SANAC calls on the authorities to respect the court order to immediately release Paul into the country whilst his legitimate application to remain here is being processed. South Africa needs to set an example to the rest of the world when it comes to defending human rights regardless of a person’s sexual orientation especially in the time when country such as Uganda are denying these rights to their citizens”, said Dr Fareed Abdullah CEO of SANAC.
“The Anova Health Institute decries developments related to the detention of Dr Paul Semugoma and calls for his immediate release. This situation places endemic homophobia in Africa under the spotlight and we deplore the Department of Home Affairs not taking a positive stance in this matter” said Glenn de Swardt, programme manager of Anova Health Institute a member of SANAC LGBTI Sector.
Civil Society organisations call on the department
- to observe the rule of law and immediately release Dr. Paul Semugoma
- to cooperate and speedily process the application for exceptional skills permit
This statement is released under the banner of SANAC Civil Society Sectors and Human Rights organisations which include: Treatment Action Campaign, Section 27, Anova Health Institute, Sonke Gender Justice and Coalition of African Lesbians
Contact :Mmapaseka Steve Letsike -SANAC Civil Society Chairperson email@example.com or + 27 734 356501
OR Kasha Jacqueline in Uganda ON
Email:firstname.lastname@example.org OR Tel: +256772463161