Monday, 11 October 2004

Zimbabwe family now belongs here

EDITORIAL: Zimbabwe family now belongs here

16.09.2004 - Paul Taggart

If ever there was a need for Immigration Minister Paul Swain to throw the rule book out the window and show some compassion it is with the Oosthuizen family.

The loss of Leon Oosthuizen in a Pakowhai Road crash on Monday was a heart-breaking tragedy for his wife Margie, and their children Lendl, 17, Jessica, 14, Hannah, 11 and Byron, 8.

Yet even while they attempt to deal with their grief, another cloud hangs over their heads - doubt over whether they will be able to remain in New Zealand after the death of their husband and father.

The family fled from Zimbabwe, where they had a successful business, to escape the vicious and corrupt regime of President Robert Mugabe. They had to pay bribes to smuggle their tractors to South Africa just to enable them to leave with a little money.

They were refugees in everything but name. Those who are official refugees can happily opt for a life of crime or on a benefit in this country knowing they cannot be sent home to the land whence they came.

But even at a time of enormous grief there is no such security for the Oosthuizens.

They are in New Zealand thanks to a business visa after they bought the Redskins Nursery between Clive and Hastings. But everything is now up in the air. The visa expired with the death of Mr Oosthuizen.

The family is hard-working and loving and involved in the community. Mrs Oosthuizen is, among other things, a PTA member of both St Patrick's School and Sacred Heart College. Their business also employs two New Zealanders.

It is possible for Mrs Oosthuizen to apply to become the family's principal applicant and continue to run the business, but if she cannot manage to do, or the application is rejected, what then?

The Government's response, so far, is starkly different to what it was in the case of Tuvaluan wife-beater Senee Niusila. Niusila came to New Zealand in 1998 on a three-month visitor's visa, became an overstayer and has now been allowed to remain as he requires State-funded kidney dialysis.

That is despite committing offences which include punching his wife in the face while she was breastfeeding their 18-day-old son.

How fair would it be if the Immigration Service were to send the bereaved Oosthuizen family back to certain poverty and misery in Zimbabwe, while Niusila is allowed to remain in New Zealand, courtesy of the taxpayer, six years after his permit ran out?

Immigration Minister Paul Swain has chosen "not to get involved" with the Oosthuizens. Sometimes it is rather difficult to understand politicians.

©Copyright 2000 NZ Herald


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