Constitutional Court’s cost order highlights Minister’s negligence

Issued by Angel Khanyile MP – DA Shadow Minister of Home Affairs
10 Nov 2023 in News

The Constitutional Court’s recent decision ordering the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to personally cover a portion of the legal costs in the case concerning the rights of undocumented immigrants sheds light on his negligent conduct. Dating back to 2017, the Court had mandated the Department of Home Affairs to enact new legislation by 2019 to safeguard the rights of foreign nationals. An interim order was also issued to ensure deportations adhered to the fundamental rights of these individuals.

Cost orders against a litigant are rare and typically reserved for exceptional cases, and this punitive action is a stark indictment of the Minister’s leadership. His management has left the department in disarray, fostering an apathetic atmosphere.

The Court’s decision to impose a personal cost order follows the Minister’s disregard for the Constitutional Court’s directives, failing to enact necessary amendments to the Immigration Act. Consequently, any confirmations of deportation since 2019 were legally invalid upon the lapse of the interim court order due to the absence of amendments.

It took the Minister an unapologetic four years to seek Court intervention in rectifying the mess he created. Rather than owning up to his responsibilities, he attributed the delay in amending the Immigration Act to the Covid pandemic, which began in 2020, a year after the Minister’s deadline for legislative changes.

This isn’t the first instance where the Minister showed disregard for legal directives. He previously ignored a 2017 Supreme Court of Appeal ruling mandating the opening of the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office, complying only in 2023 after further legal battles.

The Minister’s actions reflect a belief that he and his Department stand above the law. The decision to impose a personal cost order, while rare, ensures taxpayers aren’t burdened with unnecessary legal fees, holding the Minister accountable for a portion of the costs. The Department of Home Affairs urgently requires a Minister who doesn’t squander its resources, takes responsibility, and promptly resolves persisting issues.

The DA urges Minister Motsoaledi to expedite the legislation well before any court-imposed deadlines, preventing a repetition of past delays and the squandering of court resources.

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