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The Stranger Within The Gates

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on March 26, 2021 17:39

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The Judeo-Christian-Muslim belief system exhorts believers to look after the stranger within the gates, because thus you may entertain angels. It is also a reminder that we, too, might find ourselves strangers in someone else’s country. When the stranger rejects our treatment, that is the most cutting rejection possible.

In March 2020 a young man from Zimbabwe, a refugee from political and economic repression, later recipient of a legal work permit, went shopping under the COVID lockdown for his wife and three small girls. Someone at the shopping center was mugged, and being innocent he did not run away. Police, anxious for their performance bonuses, arrested him, then held him as an illegal immigrant. The case was escalated from court to court and, despite his pleas that Immigration had received his application to have the work permit endorsed in his new passport in 2018, he was refused bail.

His wife and employers funded a lawyer who kept postponing the case, as he believed the magistrate was biased against him and to extricate more money from the family. In the meantime, the young man found himself in the Khosi Mampuru prison, named after a historical Chief who also lent his name to illegally brewed ardent spirits. Here he was to learn the true value of money in a socialist society.

Money is illegal in prison, so wives provide lots of cigarettes that can be used to buy food to supplement the meager once-a-day meals. It could even buy sex – female police officers and prison warders are said to be keen to supplement their salaries. Prosecutors indicated that they could make the case go away. Money could improve, or fix, everything.

When the family could no longer feed the lawyer, the wife called on the magistrate for help. This prompted the court interpreter to discover the copies of the work permit, and the magistrate to appoint a State lawyer. By November 2020 it was established that the accused was legally in the country, and by that December he qualified for bail. The bail hearing was scheduled for January, but due to an overfull court schedule, it was postponed to February 2021. At this hearing, the prosecution withdrew and the case was annulled.

Lawyers advised that there could be a claim for a substantial amount for illegal arrest, illegal imprisonment for close on a year, psychological harm, and loss of income. Quite important sums were mentioned.

The now ex-prisoner discussed this with his wife, who had stood by him, supported him, and cared for the three small ones. Her answer was short. “Money is nothing. We have each other.”

Can there be a more succinct judgment of a money-mad society? Can there be a more damning judgment against a society that could not care for the ‘stranger within the gates?’ And how does society respond in terms of Hebrews 13 verses 1 and 2: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’?

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on March 26, 2021 17:39

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Source: The Guardian

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