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Zim High Court blocks deportation of Canadian teacher after visa renewal denied

By Mashudu Netsianda

The High Court has temporarily blocked the deportation of a Canadian expatriate teacher at John Tallach High School in Ntabazinduna pending the resolution of issues to do with the refusal by immigration authorities to renew her temporary work permit.

Mr Bonakele Ncube is the headmaster at John Tallach High School
Mr Bonakele Ncube is the headmaster at John Tallach High School

Ms Kerkhoff Maria Alida (31), a Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland missionary and volunteer A-Level Mathematics teacher at John Tallach High School had her application for the extension of the temporary employment permit (TEP) rejected by the Principal Director of Immigration without any reasons given.

The ruling by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo follows an urgent chamber application by John Tallach High School (Ingwenya Mission) and Ms Alida, through their lawyers Ncube and Partners, challenging the refusal by the immigration authorities to extend the teacher’s work permit. Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Cain Mathema and the Principal Director of Immigration were cited as respondents.

“It is ordered that the looming deportation of the second applicant (Ms Alida) by the first respondent (Principal Director of Immigration) be and hereby suspended pending the resolution of the issues relating to her temporary employment permit,” ruled Justice Moyo.

The judge directed the Principal Director of Immigration to immediately furnish the applicants with reasons for refusing to grant Ms Alida a TEP.

Justice Moyo said in the event that the immigration boss proffers rational grounds warranting the refusal to extend the TEP, Ms Alida should be given a reasonable notice to wind up her business and leave the country.

In papers before the court, John Tallach High School sought a court order blocking the respondents from deporting Ms Alida to her country of origin. In his founding affidavit, the school head Mr Bonakele Ncube said the application was on an urgent basis in light of Ms AIida’s imminent deportation.

“This is an urgent application for an order directing the first respondent (principal director of immigration) to furnish us with the reasons for refusal of granting of second applicant (Ms Alida) a temporary employment permit. Further, we seek relief to the effect that the deportation of the second applicant be stayed until such a time the issue relating to her TEP is finalised,” he said.

Ms Alida successfully applied for a TEP last year in May and it was valid for 12 months.

The work permit also stated that she had an option to apply for an extension three months before the expiry date. The school head said the Principal Director of Immigration acted unfairly by failing to provide the reasons justifying their refusal to renew Ms Alida’s TEP.

“The second applicant is in the country legally and she is a holder of a valid passport. She has been volunteering as an A-Level Mathematics teacher.

“This is an important point considering that the Maths teacher resigned in July 2018 to join the Harare City Council. Despite numerous requests, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary has somehow failed to make a suitable replacement,” said the headmaster.

Mr Ncube said Ms Alida, a holder of a Master’s degree in Mathematics, is also conducting a training programme for two assistants who are understudying her.

“All these teaching roles are not at the expense of the Government of Zimbabwe or the school as she is funded by the church in Scotland. She is also strategically positioned to source donor funds for the school. Furthermore she is also exploring a possibility of establishing a short term exchange programme for John Tallach High School pupils and her former school in Canada,” he said.

Mr Ncube said Ms Alida had no criminal conviction and her continued presence in the country pending the resolution of her TEP issues did not in any way prejudice the country.

Mr Ncube said the school, which is situated in Ntabazinduna, was also one of the worst affected in terms of STEM teachers’ shortage in Matabeleland North province.

In her supporting affidavit, Ms Alida said she had developed a great relationship with the pupils such that she feels they will be deprived in the event that she is deported. The Chronicle