September 22, 2010

Zimbabweans queue for residential permits

Thousands of Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa descended on Home Affairs departments nationwide to take advantage of the Dispensation Project that enables them to apply for documentation to remain in the country. South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, reiterated their commitment to offering amnesty to those Zimbabweans who are living in South Africa illegally. “This process is aimed at ensuring they comply with South Africa’s immigration laws, lead normal lives while ending your misery of living under constant fear of deportation. Simultaneously, we reiterate our commitment to extending amnesty to all those who possess fraudulent South African identity documents on condition they hand them back to Home Affairs regional offices in the country,” she told media in Pretoria.

Following her assurances, and the announcement that Zimbabweans could apply for documentation to legalise their stay at Zimbabwean embassies in South Africa, hundreds more flocked to the consulates to avoid deportation after the December 31 deadline. “We are convinced that the majority of Zimbabwean nationals resident in South Africa wish to comply with South Africa’s immigration laws and would want to take up the government offer arrived at through bilateral agreement with the Zimbabwean government, to lead normal lives in the country,” said Dlamini Zuma. To facilitate the process of Zimbabweans regularising their stay in South Africa, 240 Home Affairs officials have been deployed to 46 regional offices across the country and this number will increase if necessary.

The South African Consul General, Chris Mapanga, said that there were provisional plans to deal with the high turnout expected as part of the drive. "So far we are coping. We admit we still have to cover large numbers of people. We already have provisional plans to deal with the huge turnout in the coming months. This is a situation that we are managing and will continue to manage," he said.

The charge to obtain a Zimbabwean passport in South Africa is R750. Despite this high charge, long queues could be seen at embassies in Johannesburg and elsewhere. Zimbabweans in the queues explained that they were keen to get in early with their applications in order to have them processed well before the deadline. Hwalima Dube of Bulawayo has a valid passport but no permit to stay in South Africa.

Reports have been made that when Zimbabweans went to apply for passports at the Zimbabwe consulate in Johannesburg Central, they were told that passports could only be delivered after six weeks and not 10 days. This actually makes the South Africa Home affairs' 31 December 2010 deadline impossible to meet. In response to this, the MDC SA leadership, together with members of the Civic society, conducted an unannounced snap inspection of the Zimbabwe consulate in an effort to gauge the preparedness of the Zimbabwe government to deliver passports in time. “It is now clear that the deadlines will not the met and we appeal to Home Affairs to come up with another realistic deadline. Insisting on a deadline which will be missed by close to a million Zimbabweans is not in the best interest of anyone,” a statement from the MDC-SA read. Zimbabweans hoping to benefit from the scheme have been advised to ensure that they are aware of the documentation they need in order for their application to be successful. (Business Day)

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