Senior government officials ignored court order until jail threat

When Dr Yingwen Zhang applied for a new passport, he had to suffer from senior government officials who simply ignored the constitution and the laws of South Africa.court case

Zhang is employed as a post-doctoral fellow at the CSIR National Laser Centre in Pretoria. He urgently needs his passport for a lot of important international business appointments like major international conferences.

Home Affairs refused the application for a new passport with the justification that Zhang was „under investigation“ for the past 12 years. Even if Zhang was born in China, he came to South Africa more than 20 years ago and is now a South-African citizen.

Zhang obtained a court order which gave Home Affairs two weeks to hand him the new passport. But in spite of the court order, dozens of phone calls and emails from Zhang´s lawyer Home Affairs did not issue the passport to Zhang. Later it was shown that the officials in the department were powerless to issue the passport because the director-general Mkuseli Alpeni and deputy director-general Vusumuzi Mkhize refused to provide them with the necessary authorisation.

Zhang again turned to the court to obtain another court order for enforcement of the previous court order. The judge ruled, that if the two officials did not comply with the previous court order within 48 hours, they would have to go to jail for three months.

Furthermore, the judge granted a punitive costs order against Apleni and Mkhize and ordered the sheriff in case of failing to act to arrest and hand both officials to Pretoria Central Prison. The judge made it more than clear that judges will not tolerate ignoring court orders of anybody – neither government officials.

Shortly before the deadline expired Zhang’s attorney received a message that he could collect his passport.

“Zhang missed two major international conferences, was unable to visit his research collaborators in Canada and would miss the largest conference on laser technology in America next year unless he had a passport.”


Ilse de Lange, title: „Govt must comply with court orders or face jail“, The Citizen, 17.07.2015,

Zelda Venter, title: „Top officials only act after jail threat“, Pretoria News, 17.07.2015,

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