Honourable Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi
I know that you are a very busy man, so I will get straight to the point.
My name is Ndoji Manika, I am 23 years old.
In the year 2001, I was only two years old. I could not talk, I had no social or cultural understanding and I had no ability to make decisions. In that year, my mother immigrated to South Africa from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As soon as she arrived here, she applied for asylum. Since I was accompanying her as her child, I was placed in her file.
On 28 November 2007, six years after applying for asylum, her application was rejected. She was given 10 days to submit a notice of appeal, which she did. In 2017, a refugee status determination officer called her in and informed her that the notice of appeal she had submitted in 2007 was lost. She was asked to re-submit it, which she did. Since then, the Refugee Appeal Board has not called her for a hearing. This means that for a total of 14 years, she has been under the “Booked for Appeal Hearing” and was always being given a six-month extension on her section 22 permit.’
My mother and I have been in South Africa for a total of 20 years.
For me, things took a turn for the worst in March 2020. We went to renew our section 22 permits and I was told that I am now too old to be under my mother’s file. This was odd because my mother is the reason I am in South Africa in the first place. For over 20 years, I had been under her file, but they decided to remove me and told me that I needed to make my own file. This would then mean that I now had to apply for asylum.
I explained to the refugee status determination officer Lebohang Pitsi that I do not have a story to tell. I was accompanying my mother because I was only two years old. I do not have any experience or memory of the DRC. I do not know the language, geographic locations or anyone there.
Pitsi told me that she was giving me an immediate rejection because my reason for “applying for asylum” was invalid/manifestly unfounded. They gave me a permit from the standing committee for refugee affairs that was valid for only one month. They also gave me 14 days to appeal their decision, however, we were then hit with a hard lockdown and the home affairs offices were closed. I could not submit my appeal. On 9 April 2020, my permit expired.
In 2021, When the online application system opened, my mother applied and her permit was extended for 12 months. My permit is still not extended. My bank account has been restricted due to FICA regulations. I can’t update my details with my bursary. I am basically stranded.
I am writing this letter to you, not to ask your country for asylum. I am not even writing this letter to you as a Congolese citizen because I do not know anything about the DRC. I have never been to that country ever since 2001. My whole life has been established in South Africa. I learnt how to speak here. The only place I have ever known is South Africa. I completed my nursery, primary and high school in South Africa. My social circles have been established here. I have South African blood relatives who I live with.
I am also an exceptional student. In both primary and high school, I was voted as the head boy. My leadership position allowed me to establish and represent young South Africans with dignity and honour. I have volunteered at charity organisations. I have created community-based organisations that help the needy. I have also won numerous public speaking competitions.
I am enrolled at the University of Johannesburg and employed by The Knowledge Trust. I pay tax and contribute towards the economy. I do not have any criminal record, but I have a handful of South African citizens that can testify that I have lived my life obeying, respecting and doing everything in my power to contribute towards the development of the country which has taken care of me since I was two years old.
Please, can you help me by giving me proper documentation to continue staying in South Africa as a permanent resident? My whole life is in your hands. I know nothing and nobody in the DRC. I have relatives who are SA citizens. My mother is now 64, terminally ill. Anything could happen to her. All of these are factors which I beg you to consider when making your decision.