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Author puzzled by 'shut-out'

2002-08-26 13:49

Cape Town - Prize-winning author and journalist MC Botha is not allowed to visit Canada, as the country's authorities do not trust him.

Or so it would seem, said Botha on Saturday, shortly after all his attempts to visit his woman friend, Leslie Cockwell, in Huntsville, Ontario, for two months had failed.

Botha had met Cockwell (39), a private exercise instructor, at the beginning of last year after she was assaulted, raped and left for dead by three men in Hermanus. When no arrests were made, Cockwell offered a reward of R50 000 for information.

Three suspects were detained shortly afterwards, and she and Botha, editor of the Hermanus Times, met in court.

Their initial "spiritual bond" has since grown into a serious love relationship.

Botha was separated from his wife at the time, but has not officially divorced her.

"These things take time, and our agreement is that we have to make the right decisions about our future, also for our children's sake."

Botha bought a return ticket to Ontario in June this year, and was supposed to leave on July 28.

Complied with requirements

He would have returned in time for the forum of local newspaper editors, presented by Sanlam at the end of September this year. Botha is known for often walking away with awards for his work as a journalist.

He also complied with all other requirements for a visa application; among others, a latter from his employer, Jean le Roux, that he was permanently employed.

Copies of his bank accounts and his residential address were supplied to the Canadian high commission in Pretoria, but the curt message on his application reads that it "does not comply with requirements for residence as a temporary citizen of Canada".

No clear reason has, however, been supplied so far for the rejection of his application, said Botha.

"It is very vague, and they don't even acknowledge receipt of my numerous faxes to Pretoria. The worst is that I cannot speak to anyone directly.

"I always speak just to a tape recording and my calls are never returned. The entire matter is inexplicable. I am not a teenager, and have a stable job and life in South Africa.

Will now have to try other avenues

"My only offence is that I was honest enough to put all my cards on the table. Was I supposed to lie about my marital status?"

Cockwell's father is Jack Cockwell, chief executive of the influential Canadian company, Brascan, said Botha on Saturday.

Their only option now was to follow this route, as Cockwell was a good friend of the Canadian deputy prime minister.

Botha said Suzette van Niekerk of the office of the Canadian high commissioner in Cape Town told him that she also could not quite understand what was going on.

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