American rapper Mos Def will not face charges in South Africa for using a so-called “world passport” but will be banned from returning to the country, government officials said on Tuesday.
The 42-year-old hip hop artist, actor and activist, whose birth name was Dante Smith but who has used the name Yasiin Bey for the last five years, was arrested in Cape Town in January after trying to leave South Africa on his unofficial passport.
Ending months of court hearings and postponements, the government announced that charges against him would be dropped after he apologised and agreed to fly out of the country later on Tuesday.
“This is clearly a vindication of the position we had taken on this matter, including the fact that we do not recognise the world passport,” the Home Affairs department said in a statement.
“Mr Smith Bey (Mos Def) has applied for and will be travelling out of the republic on a US passport.”
It added that he would be declared an “undesirable person” and not be allowed to return to South Africa.
Mos Def was arrested at Cape Town airport while attempting to board a flight to Ethiopia. He was freed on bail of 5,000 rand ($350, 334 euros).
He had entered South Africa with a legitimate US passport last year, but tried to leave using a “World Government of World Citizens” passport.
The World Government of World Citizens was established in 1953 by the late peace activist Garry Davis, an American who renounced his citizenship after World War II.
Mos Def is believed to have been staying regularly in Cape Town for several years.
“I haven’t broken any law. And I’m being treated like a criminal,” he said in a message released via superstar rapper Kanye West’s Twitter feed at the time of his arrest.
In his acclaimed hip-hop career Mos Def has produced classic solo songs as well as albums with Talib Kweli in the duo Black Star.
Both WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and intelligence leaker Edward Snowden are reported to be holders of world passports, which are not officially recognised.