Durban – The thought of kissing his wife and two children goodbye as the expiry date of his temporary spousal visa drew nearer had been replaying in Forbes Maupa's mind over and over.
Maupa, a priest at Pinetown's Anglican Church of St John the Baptist, has been struggling to fall asleep thinking about Saturday, August 20, the day he would have to turn his back and bid farewell to South Africa, a place he has called home since arriving from Zimbabwe in 2001.
Desperate and out of options after being given the runaround by the Department of Home Affairs for almost four years on his application for permanent residency, in 2015 Maupa sent Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba a tweet stating his case, hoping that Gigaba would be able to expedite the matter.
However, Maupa struggled to secure his permit despite the minister pointing him in the right direction and assigning an official to deal with the case.
On Monday, Maupa, growing anxious with only five days until his temporary spousal visa expires, turned to News24 for help.
"Please help me, I am desperate, I am going to be deported and I am going to lose my family," said Maupa in a soft voice.
Building a future
The man of the cloth told News24 that he arrived in South Africa in 2001 on a student permit.
The papers limited him to studying in the country and returning to his home country after completing his studies.
He left his now 96-year-old father and four siblings behind and set his sights on building a future for himself in the country.
In 2003, he was ordained a priest after a three-year course in theology at the University of South Africa.
That same year Maupa's student visa expired and it was subsequently renewed.
The following year, while studying, he met the woman who would later become his wife.
"Abegail and I got married in 2006. After we got married we moved to Secunda and I was granted a temporary spousal visa."
Maupa worked as a priest at All Saints Anglican Church in Secunda until the end of 2011 when he moved to Benoni where he worked at Resurrection Watville for two years.
"In January 2012 I went to apply for permanent residency in Springs and they told me that I needed a medical certificate, radiology certificate, a police clearance from South Africa and Zimbabwe and a supporting document from my wife supporting the application."
In addition, he was given a checklist to which he could refer to ensure that he had all the documents required when he returned.
Maupa said he returned to home affairs a day later with the necessary documents and was told to return after three months to check whether his application was successful or not.
He said he went back to the home affairs office after the first three months and then every three months after being told at every instance that the application was pending.
In September 2013, an official from the department told him that the department could not find his security clearance document and that he needed to bring a new one.
"I travelled to the Zimbabwe and to Pretoria police to get clearance and I took the document back to the office in Springs."
In December 2013, Maupa relocated to Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal.
In February the following year, he received communication from the home affairs in Springs informing him that his application was ready.
"I went there on February 8 and they told me that my supporting document from my wife was missing and I needed to bring a new one. They asked me resubmit everything and I asked them what happened because I had all the copies of the document that I had submitted originally."
As if that was not enough, his temporary spousal visa expired that year but was renewed within two weeks.
"My wife and I were sure that the permanent residency permit was ready, we could not understand what was taking so long."
Frustrated with the department, Maupa took to Twitter in November 2015 and informed Gigaba about his plight. Gigaba responded.
@mgigaba sir I did exactly that and his response was an email asking Marhule to assist, same response I have received since December 2015— Forbie Maupa (@eagle4BC) August 15, 2016
"He told me to contact a certain Chief Ntshingila and he gave me his email address to report the matter."
A helping hand
In December 2015 he received a response from a Mr Ronney Marhule who informed him that the department was working on his application. Maupa says there was no further communication.
"I tweeted the minister again four weeks ago and he told me to communicate with Mr Ntshingila."
Maupa said he began to panic when he did not hear from the department as his temporary spousal visa was set to expire on August 20.
On Monday morning, after speaking to Maupa, News24 contacted the department at around 10:00, emailing all the officials that Maupa had been referred to over the last four years.
At around 13:00 Maupa received a phone call from Pretoria asking him to resubmit a letter from his wife, his passport, current visa and his marriage certificate.
By 15:00, an official informed News24 and Maupa that his documents had been approved, that the approval letters had been drafted and that the permanent residency certificate would be dispatched to the Braamfontein office by Wednesday, August 17.
The certificate will be ready for collection at Maupa's regional office next Wednesday.
Delays blamed on priest
News24 has seen a copy of the permit which proved that Maupa was now a permanent resident in the country.
News24 contacted Maupa and he was overwhelmed when he saw the email from the department.
"I am so relieved, I cannot even breathe. They were punishing me. I am so thankful," said an emotional Maupa.
He thanked Gigaba, the department officials and News24 saying now he did not have to leave his wife, 8-year-old daughter Akeelah and his 6-year-old son, Malik.
@mgigaba Thank you for giving me a good night sleep in a long time, your office has delivered what I had waited for for four years! Thank u— Forbie Maupa (@eagle4BC) August 15, 2016
The department has put the blame on Maupa for the delays.
Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the delays were caused by insufficient information that had to be provided to the department by the client.
"The client has since furnished us with the documents and has subsequently been granted a permanent residence status. To this end, following the collection of the verified copy, he may apply for an ID book."
Tshwete said citizenship was a different process and may be applied for after living in the country for a specified period as a permanent residence permit holder.