SA man vows to fight UK government after wife dies
Nancy Motsamai 'was accused of faking illness' amid the couple's tragic deportation nightmare
Fusi Motsamai was not there when his wife Nancy was being buried in his home town of Bothaville in the Free State. He was sitting thousands of kilometres away in Woking, in South East England, sad and frustrated.
At least surrounded by members from his church and some friends, they had to follow the burial proceeding via a livestream on Facebook. His close-knit church congregation from the Woking United Reformed Church held a memorial service earlier for Nancy.
The couple, both 35, had settled down nicely in their foster country, integrating with the local community. But within days after a routine visa application, everything changed, culminating in Nancy’s death – something he says British authorities should ultimately answer for.
The couple met at a party in 2005, a year after Fusi settled down overseas. “There was a lot of South Africans around here then, and we would come together once in a while.”
They married in 2010.For 14 years South African couple Fusi and Nancy lived a happy life in England. Fusi works as a floor layer and Nancy had just completed her degree in health and social work. They would renew their visa every two years and didn't encounter any problems until 2016.
“Every time we applied to renew our visas they would return the application and say it was invalid or that we didn’t submit the required documents, which is a lie,” Fusi maintains. “They would reject us for things that don’t even apply to us.”
The couple had to report to the Home Office every month to prove they were still in the country and had not been involved in anything illegal.Last month, during their usual check-in, they were told they would be deported immediately and that they were booked on a flight to South Africa. Authorities told them they were just waiting for the Secretary of State to endorse the decision.
“My wife was not feeling well the whole day and she asked for water. They said the only water we can offer you is from the bathroom.
“The next thing, guards came in and said they have orders on paper to take us to Heathrow Airport.”
When the Motsamais asked questions, the guards simply told them their only job was to transport them. At the airport they were told to board a plane, which they refused to do. They were seated in a waiting room with others who were being deported.
Nancy was allowed to leave the room, accompanied by a guard, to get food and water. Moments later Fusi was called to his wife’s side, after she had collapsed.
“The guards standing around her told me to help my wife get up. I asked them how I was supposed to help her if I did not even know what happened.”
He claims they insisted he move Nancy because she was blocking the corridor. “I asked again what happened and they said: ‘Just help her up’.”He managed to get Nancy back to the waiting room. Fusi recalls: “An immigration official came and took us to an interview room. The first thing he said, while indicating to my wife, was: ‘I don’t like what I saw when I entered here. I don’t have any information that you have a condition explaining why you were on the floor.’
“She was accused of faking not feeling well as a ploy to not be deported.
“Next time I will handcuff both your feet and hands and you will have to walk like a penguin to the plane, and if you still refuse we will carry you,” the official allegedly told the couple.
The officer wanted to know why the couple were refusing to leave, since their judicial review had been refused and those papers had been served on them. Fusi said he didn’t know about the papers.
The official returned with a file, saying Fusi lied to him.
“I said just because our names are on there doesn’t mean we got it. If my lawyer doesn’t have those papers it’s meaningless.”
The officer called the couple’s lawyer, who confirmed she received the documents but questioned who refused the visas, since only a judge had the authority to do so. The official would hear nothing of it.
Nancy was still feeling unwell, but was not offered any medical care or attention.
After a taxing day they were taken to separate detention centres where they spent the night. Fusi said he had no idea where his wife was until the next day.
At the centre Nancy was finally seen by a doctor, who allegedly told her she had a throat infection, and that it would pass in a few days.
“Then we were released with no explanation and could return home. I told Nancy she needed to see a doctor, but she said that a doctor has already diagnosed her. Five days later, on March 12, I found her dead in our home,” he said.
Her death was found to be caused by a blood clot in the lungs.A few days later, on March 16, Fusi sent an e-mail to the Home Office lawyers to inform them of Nancy’s death and ask for the return of her passport.
After two weeks he still hadn’t received it. Nancy’s body was eventually returned to South Africa on April 5 after the High Commission agreed to provide an emergency travel document.
“On Good Friday, after I informed them of Nancy’s death, I got a text on her phone saying she needed to come and report to the office, or face penalties. This was the first time either of us had ever received a message like that.”
The Home Office later sent an apology for the text message, claiming they were not aware that she had passed away. But Fusi suspects they only apologised because a journalist from the Guardian had contacted them.
“That’s when they started acting. I’m not accepting it because they only acted after they realised their names were going to be in the paper.”
Fusi received Nancy’s passport six days after his wife was buried in the Free State. He is still waiting for his own passport to be returned.He is adamant that he will remain in the UK until justice has been done.
“My wife has been fighting to stay here. She said that we are not going go to SA till justice has been done for us. If I come to SA it’s like giving up what we’ve been fighting for all these years. I will continue the fight we started together.”
EWN reports that Nancy’s family is now planning to sue UK authorities.
According to The Guardian, a Home Office spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Mrs Motsamai’s family at this difficult time. We take our responsibilities towards detainees’ health and welfare seriously. When there are claims that the highest standards have not been met these will be investigated thoroughly.”