The Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, and Director-General, Livhuwani Makhode, have agreed to pay part of the legal costs for Lawyers for Human Rights from their own pockets.
This comes after the Constitutional Court on Monday slapped both Motsoaledi and Makhode with personal cost orders in the case involving the rights of undocumented immigrants.
The decision follows Motsoaledi and his department’s failure to revise the Immigration Act in the past six years.
In a statement issued by the department, Motsoaledi said the fees would only be paid as soon as the taxed bill of costs was presented by Lawyers for Human Rights.
He welcomed the finding by the Constitutional Court that he was in the dark about the litigation and the shoddy manner in which it was conducted by the officials and legal representatives.
“The minister has never come across a situation in which officials and legal representatives decide to go to court in his name without his knowledge and any consultation with him.
“As the court found, these were indeed lapses of extraordinary range and gravity,” the statement read.
According to the statement, the minister accepted that he was responsible for the fulfilment of the objectives of the department as well as the actions or failures of all officials serving under him.
He also accepted that his duty was to ensure that the court orders were complied with and that officials under him did not repeat the “comedy of errors” and gross negligence seen in this case.
“The minister will take steps, as he has done before, to ensure an effective supervisory role. The judgment put paid to an erroneous belief that the executive authority should play no role in the everyday management of the affairs of the department.
“To this end, corrective measures will be taken against all officials involved in this saga,” the statement continued.
However, Motsoaledi said that in fulfilment of his Constitutional responsibilities, he would ensure that the fees in the amount of R222,862.60 paid to Mike Bofilatos SC were recovered without any further delay.
He said the legal representatives led by Bofilatos failed in their professional duties by proceeding with litigation without the minister’s knowledge.
Initially, the court order found that sections 34.1(b) and (d) of the Immigration Act were unlawful and unconstitutional. The sections permitted the administrative detention of undocumented foreigners for deportation.
As ordered by the court, the detention period can be extended from 30 days to 90 days or up to 120 days.
However, in 2016, Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) argued that immigrants were being detained for more than 120 days or longer without trial.
The court order, which was issued in 2017, gave the department and Parliament 24 months to amend the legislation and suspended the invalidity for that period. To date, nothing has changed.