Sonke and partners host the ‘Department of Happiness Affairs’ in Cape Town

On Friday 6 April 2018, Sonke Gender Justice, together with various civil society partners, will stage a creative activism event – “The Department of Happiness Affairs”, based on the principles of The Theatre of the Oppressed1. Refugees and asylum seekers – some of the most marginalised people in South Africa – often face discrimination, inefficiencies and major administrative burdens when applying or renewing their permits at the Department of Home Affairs. This is particularly true at Customs House, Cape Town.

The closure of important services at the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office (RRO) in 2012 has forced asylum seekers to travel vast distances and at great costs – financial and emotional – every 1-6 months to get their papers renewed. The courts have ordered that this needs to change, but Home Affairs has ignored some of these orders2.

In an effort to bring more attention and colour to the dust and despair that characterise the conditions at Customs House where Home Affairs is currently housing its limited services, civil society will be hosting the Department of Happiness Affairs (full title “Department of Happiness Affairs and Joyful Application for Life Documents and Recreation for the Greater Good”).  It intends to show the Department of Home Affairs what services to migrants could look like – a welcoming, empathetic and receptive space, open to all asylum seekers and refugees who wish to apply for documentation in South Africa.

Date: Friday 6 April 2018

Time: 10am – 12pm (Media briefing at 09:50am)

Where: Customs House, Heerengracht Street, Foreshore, Cape Town

Due to the vulnerability of many people at the RRO, we ask that you please be sensitive to the issue of privacy for refugees and asylum seekers. Some people may not want their photo to be taken, others may need to have their faces obscured. Please ask if you want to take a photo and what the person being interviewed would like to be referred to.


1. The Theatre of the Oppressed is a form of popular community-based education that uses theater as a tool for social change. Developed by Augusto Boal in the 1970s, it has become a worldwide practice for political and social activism. Essentially the idea is that the audience becomes active, and they explore, show, analyse and transform the reality in which they are living.

2.  Department of Home Affairs in breach of Supreme Court of Appeal order – again, Sonke press release, 4 April 2018:


A number of representatives from civil society organisations will be available for interview about their engagement and advocacy on migrant rights, and particularly about efforts to open the CTRRO over the last 6 years.

Micheline Minani Muzaneza
Senior Trainer
Sonke Gender Justice
078 188 7867
Expertise: Firsthand knowledge and experience

Marike Keller
Policy Development and Advocacy Specialist
Sonke Gender Justice
083 259 6573
Expertise: Legal; Advocacy; Planning Department of Happiness Affairs

Patrick Matenga
United Family (UniFam)
073 190 7921
Expertise: Protection Officer; firsthand knowledge and experience

Zekhethelo Cele
Legal Intern
061 717 3451
Expertise: Legal

Jean Luc Tshiamala
Peer Support Group Programme Manager
Adonis Musati Project
083 991 9447
Expertise: Legal; firsthand knowledge and experience