The lawyer of a Nigerian pastor charged with human trafficking and sexual assault in the Port Elizabeth Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, tried to poke holes in the testimony of an immigration officer that the pastor was in the country illegally.
Alfonso Hatting, for the pastor, pointed at what he refers to as mistakes appearing in the pastor’s passport pages and tried to find loopholes in the visas to point out the inaccuracies on the part of government officials.
Senior Immigration Officer Ivan Klaasen took the stand again on Tuesday.
The matters on dispute were amendments on several permits, as appearing in the pastor’s passport, for a work permit and a temporary stay permit which were issued on the same day on July 18, 2000.
“The applicant made an application for a work permit in the South African Embassy in Botswana, on his arrival back at the port of entry in Botswana, he was granted a temporary stay permit, instead of having his work permit activated,” said Klaasen.
“These documents were further extended and amended for years after the initial issues.”
However, Hatting rejected Klaasen’s label on the applicant, which flags him as an illegal immigrant, and said that Klaasen had no legal standing to label the pastor as an illegal immigrant, he said the applicant is not a prohibited person.
“Permits have been issued to the applicant and these were based on information in prior documents issued by Home Affairs,” said Hatting.
“In view of the imperfections of your administration staff, the mistakes contained in his passports mean that your version of the applicant’s status could also be a mistake.”
Klaasen disputed responding: “Your worship, there is a distinction between a mistake and fraud.”
“A mistake can be corrected, but a fraud will not be corrected… It is not mistakes, this was a deliberate tactic,” he said, citing that even though he is not privy to what transpired on the events of the fraudulent transactions between the pastor and the immigration officers that granted him the fraudulent permits, he said there were red flags that informed his opinion on the permits.
In an attempt to use the issue of the granted amendments and extensions, Hatting said if the department had issued these documents that makes the applicant of legal status in the country. He enquired on the reasons why the pastor was not processed for deportation.
“Will you proceed with a process to deport him before the the conclusion of the case in 2018?” he said.
Klaasen indicated that there was no plan to deport the pastor, due to the court proceedings currently underway.
Hatting argued that there was no reason for the State to refuse the applicant bail, adding that it was up to the court to give the pastor the status of illegal or prohibited.
He said the State’s case was weak and added that the pastor was not a flight risk and had known since October that he was under investigation.
“He had five opportunities to escape but he came back; therefore he is not a flight risk,” said Hatting.
However, prosecutor Nceba Ntelwa opposed the bail application citing that there was “seriously incriminating” evidence against the pastor.
“The applicant had an onus to take the stand and allow the State to weigh his evidence,” said Ntelwa.
“His defence led untested evidence before court and opted to give evidence based on an affidavit.”
Ntelwa said the affidavit evidence has deprived him of an opportunity to clarify to the court on critical matters which still remain vague before the court.
The matter was postponed to June 9 for judgment on the bail application.