Almost deported twice
Sipho Mdluli gets goose bumps, and desperately tries to hide, every time he sees the police. But his only "crime" is not having an ID.
Police have twice come close to deporting Mdluli, claiming he is an illegal foreigner.
This week, after spending the weekend at Brixton police station, he said he was "in shock" when an official Lindela Repatriation Centre in Mogale City told him: "You can go home".
Said Mdluli: "They took my fingerprints and said I was a South African. I was terrified they would send me to some foreign country. I have never been out of South Africa."
He was sent to Lindela with 109 illegal immigrants. A labourer at a golf course in Johannesburg's northern suburbs, Mdluli is originally from Mlabuyalingana in KwaZulu-Natal.
He was first arrested in December 2005 after police told him his ID was fake. Mdluli said the police confiscated it.
To date he has no ID book and is always trying not to cross paths with police.
"I don't know how to plead with them, but I wish they would leave me alone. I am a South African through and through."
He applied for another ID in November last year. He said when he was arrested he tried to explain to them that "my ID was confiscated by police in 2005, but they would not listen," Mdluli said.
Last Friday when they raided the Hillbrow flats he stays in, Mdluli said he produced an ID copy and other documents bearing his ID numbers, but police insisted on an actual ID.
"They flung them away and handcuffed me."
Mdluli complained that they were starved at Brixton police cells. "We were arrested at 3 am on Friday and they only gave us three slices of bread and soup on Saturday afternoon."
He came to Johannesburg in 1999. His cousin, Nkemane Mdluli, said he could not believe his cousin was suspected of being a foreigner.
"We grew up together, herding cattle and we still stay together," Nkemane said.
Hillbrow police spokesman Bhekizizwe Mavundla said they would investigate Mdluli's complaint.
"But there are lots of illegal immigrants and police have to do their best," he said.