Rwandan hitman with a heart to be sent packing

15 December 2017 - 06:42 By ERNEST MABUZA
Image: Thinkstock

An agent of Rwanda's intelligence services, who had a change of heart after being sent to South Africa to allegedly kill members of that country's opposition, should be deported.

That was the decision of four of the five Supreme Court of Appeal judges who heard an appeal by the Home Affairs Department.

It wants to deport Alex Ruta, who was arrested in December 2016 for possessing a fraudulent permit and being an illegal.

The four judges held that Ruta contravened the Refugees Act by failing to apply for asylum timeously and without delay.

Ruta arrived in South Africa in December 2014 after being instructed by his superior in Rwanda to travel to South Africa to engage with the Rwanda National Congress, an exiled opposition party with offices in South Africa.

There have been at least two attacks on RNC leaders in South Africa. Patrick Karegeya, one of the leaders, was assassinated in Johannesburg in December 2013. Another, Rwanda's ex-army chief General Kayumba Nyamwasa, was shot and wounded in 2010 in what the government described as an attack by foreign security operatives.

Ruta came to South Africa without a visa in December 2014. He said his Rwandan handlers had arranged a house for him and told him they would get him a firearm. Ruta said he realised he had to kill a member of the RNC.

He approached the Hawks in February 2015 about the mission and was placed under witness protection in March. During this period, he did not apply for asylum.

He was released from the protection programme in December 2015 because he had obtained work without a valid work permit.

He was arrested in March 2016 and charged with being an illegal foreigner.

In July last year Ruta was sentenced to a three-month prison term for having a fraudulent permit. The department wanted to deport him after serving his time, while Ruta believed he must be given a chance to apply for asylum.

Judge of Appeal Willie Seriti said there was no indication Ruta had any intention of applying for asylum before his arrest.

"The idea of applying for asylum came to his mind when he was detained and the appellant was in the process of arranging for his deportation."