South Africa will strip refugees of any political act

JOHANNESBURG: South Africa can now strip refugees of their asylum status if they participate in any political activity related to their countries of origin, according to a new law that critics consider illegal and deeply ironic after the ruling party fought for years against the previous government as a liberation movement in exile.

Representatives of refugees and asylum seekers say they will go to court to challenge the new law that, they say, limits freedom of expression and expression guaranteed by the constitution of South Africa, a worldwide praised document created after the racist apartheid system will end and African National Congress came to power.

The new law came into effect silently on January 1, surprising a community of refugees from across the continent who have long relied on the freedom of South Africa to speak out against what they call repressive governments in places like Rwanda, Zimbabwe , Burundi and Congo.

When asked if the ban on political activities, including voting, contradicted the ANC's own story in exile in African nations, Interior Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told local news24 last week that circumstances did not they are the same.

`` The people of the ANC who lived in countries did not go there to say: 'I am a refugee, just protect me.' They went there and said, `` I am a freedom fighter, '' said Motsoaledi, whose biography says he was involved with the ANC's armed wing during apartheid.

The minister also described the leaders of some African nations that people have fled as being ``democratically elected,'' which human rights groups would reject. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame won the last election with nearly 100% of the vote, Zimbabwe 's army opened fire on people protesting after its most recent election and the U.N. human rights office has called Burundi ``one of the most prolific slaughterhouses of humans in recent times'' over its election turmoil.

However, as questions about the new law continue, the Interior Minister told the South African Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that `` it could be that the wording could have been incorrect '' and, if so, `` the we will correct. ''

But Motsoaledi defended the new requirement that any political activity of refugees first obtain their permission, compared to obtaining permission from the authorities for a public protest.

`` We need to know if it's wrong and if it's going to cause a war in the country (of origin), '' he told the state broadcaster. `` We need to warn them and tell them: 'No, no, no, this will cause a war with our neighbors, it's not good for us.' ''

That feeling worries some refugees.

During an interview with The Associated Press, an activist and refugee from Rwanda, Gabriel Hertis, reviewed the Bill of Rights of the South African constitution, which according to the constitutional court `` has had the greatest impact on life in this country. ''

`` This new law is against everything I am seeing, '' he said, listing the guarantees of equality, dignity, freedom of association and more. `` This is an attempt to change the constitution through backdoor channels. ''

For years, some African governments have complained to South Africa about the activities of people who fled here and found a relatively safe place to be opened, and so far South Africa had resisted the pressure, Hertis said.

He was concerned that informants from the Rwandan government, accused of persecuting opposition figures outside their borders, now approach South African officials and say, `` Those people are doing politics. ''

South Africa `` is inviting government interference, '' Hertis said.

The new law will have a `` drastic effect '' on both newcomers and those already in South Africa, said the spokesman for the African Diaspora Forum, which represents refugees and other people across the continent.

`` We could even see extraditions, '' Amir Sheikh told the AP, comparing the actions with the US president. UU. Donald Trump Restrictive executive orders with respect to refugees.

He said the forum met with the Interior Minister a few weeks before the new law went into effect and that these problems `` never appeared on the table. ''

The new law is the latest example of the difficulties faced by asylum seekers in South Africa, where some 89,000 people are recognized as refugees but about 180,000 people await news about their claims, Sharon Ekambaram of Lawyers for Human Rights told the station State on Tuesday. .

Some of them protested last year at the offices of the United Nations agency for refugees in the capital, Praetorship , and in Cape Town , seeking better protection and even evacuation after the last outbreak of xenophobic violence in South Africa against foreigners.

Ekambaram said his legal group managed to meet with the Interior Minister on those and other matters last year, after six years of attempts.