Mos Def has found out the hard way that a so-called “world passport” is not accepted in South Africa and the American rapper will now have to appear in court for trying to use one.
The 42-year-old, also known as Yasiin Bey, is alleged to have broken South Africa’s immigration laws, a government official said on Wednesday.
The rapper, who is also a successful actor, was charged with using a false identity, using an unrecognised travel document and helping his family stay in the country illegally, General Mkuseli Apleni told journalists.
Mos Def, born Dante Smith, was arrested last week after he tried to leave South Africa using an apparent passport that was not issued by any specific nation.
He was released on bail to appear in court on March 8, Apleni said.
According to the World Service Authority (WSA), a Washington-based non-profit organisation that issues the document, world passports were created in the 1950s as a way of giving stateless people and refugees access to identification that could be used to cross international boundaries.
“The WSA passport differs from national passports because the WSA passport identifies the bearer as a human being rather than as a national subject,” the organisation says.
It also offers marriage certificates, birth cards and other documents typically issued by governments.
The organisation was founded by Garry Davis, a former Broadway actor and World War II bomber pilot who renounced his US citizenship and declared himself a “citizen of the world”.
He declared the founding of the World Government of World Citizens in 1953 and established the WSA as its administrative arm.
WSA claims that its travel document is accepted officially by six countries (Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Mauritania, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia), and that bearers of the document have been accepted on a case-by-case basis by more than 150 countries.
Rapping in response
South Africa’s refusal to accept it, though, has stirred debate in the country.
“It cannot be in the laws and practices of South Africa to criminalise, arrest and even deport Africans from the diaspora who made it their mission to visit and find home in South Africa,” Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, a spokesman for the Economic Freedom Fighters party (EFF), said in a statement.
Immigration officials said they also found that Mos Def’s wife and child had overstayed visas that expired in April 2014. The rapper’s family must leave the country by January 29, Apleni said.
Mos Def, who has lived in South Africa since 2013, had entered the country 10 times using a US passport, the ministry said.
In an audio recording published on fellow rapper Kanye West’s website, Mos Def said he was being prevented from leaving the country “without any logical reason”.
“I committed no crime. Why is the state wasting my time?” Mos Def rapped.
“I’ll go away. And when I leave, that’s exactly where I’ll stay.”