The High Court in Pretoria has granted asylum to a religious leader from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and ordered that proceedings to extradite him for a murder charge in his home country be put on hold.
Paul Mukungubila, 69, who heads the Ministry for the Restoration from Black Africa and is an opponent of President Joseph Kabila, turned to the court after the Refugee Appeal Board refused to hear his appeal against the refusal of his asylum application, because there were extradition proceedings pending against him.
Five of Makungubila’s 18 wives and 12 of his 19 children currently reside with him in South Africa.
He fled to the country in 2014, saying he feared he faced the same fate as other adherents of his faith who have been mercilessly murdered and senselessly imprisoned.
Makungubila is regarded by the 1 200 members of his organisation as a prophet with revelatory powers about the future.
He was arrested by Interpol in 2015, in connection with charges of murder, aggravated assault, malicious destruction and arbitrary and illegal detention, whereafter SA authorities, acting on a request by the DRC government, started proceedings to extradite him.
Makungubila denied responsibility for the charges and said he and members of his religious group were engaged in a peaceful demonstration and were unarmed when they were savagely set upon by DRC security forces.
He said he had been the victim of Kabila and his government on several occasions and was, in 2006, when he contested the presidential election, also set upon by commandos sent by Kabila.
Judge MJ Maluleke said it was clear that Makungubila would be subjected to persecution on account of his religion and political opinions.