Monday, 14 August 2006

Zim, SA unmoved by family drama

13/08/2006 22:59 - (SA)

Michele O'Connor , Die Burger

Cape Town - Not even his father's murder, nor his mother's critical condition in hospital can clear the way for a Zimbabwean to travel to South Africa.

Bureaucratic red tape on the part of the South African and Zimbabwean governments is apparently preventing the oldest son of a Cape Town woman from joining the rest of the family in their time of need.

Ian Austen of Harare is being threatened with arrest and deportation if he sets foot in South Africa.

Austen is battling to get a visa and his family says no reason is being given about why he can't get one.

His younger brother, John, told Die Burger his older brother had to return to South Africa urgently after their parents, Tony and Colleen Austen, were attacked in their Muizenberg home last Thursday evening.

"My father died on Friday after the attack and my mother is fighting for her life in Groote Schuur Hospital.

Mom has 2% chance of living

"Doctors recommended that the machines keeping my mother alive be switched off.

"My mother has just a 2% chance of staying alive. We, my brothers Steve and Colin and sisters, Cara and Patricia, can't take such drastic action without Ian.

He's the oldest and must come and sign the documents, approving the decision to switch off the machines."

John said he'd been trying to organise a visa for his brother with Zimbabwean consulate officials in Cape Town and Pretoria since Friday morning.

"I sent all the documents, including my father's death certificate, a doctor's letter about my mother's condition and a police statement to the consulate.

"Officials are refusing to help us. One told me I was wasting my time and Ian wouldn't get a visa."

John said officials of the South African foreign affairs department told him his brother would be arrested immediately and deported if he arrived at Johannesburg International Airport.

Trying legal route - in vain

"It's ridiculous. We're trying to get Ian legally into the country, while nearly the entire Zimbabwean population is streaming illegally across the South African border.

"Illegal immigrants are kept here for months at taxpayers' expense before they're deported.

"Ian just wants to come and say goodbye to his mother and father."

The department of foreign affairs and the Zimbabwean consulate couldn't be reached for comment.


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