January 2, 2011

Thousands Zimbabweans applied for permits to stay

More than 250,000 Zimbabweans have applied to the home affairs department to legalise their stay in South Africa, officials said. Home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni said that by 4pm on Friday, 250,633 applications had been received at 42 offices across the country. Home affairs communications manager Ricky Naidoo said the department had ruled on 44,649 applications and more than 38,000 had been approved, while another 6165 applications had so far been rejected.

Home affairs offices have been instructed to remain open right until the last Zimbabwean application had been received on Friday. Zimbabweans were given a December 31 deadline to apply for documents to legalise their stay in the country.

In a statement on Friday, Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it was "shell-shocked to receive news that the Zimbabwe government turned down an offer from the South African government of a printing press with a capacity of printing 100.000 passports". However, Apleni said there had been no specific offer of a printing press. "We told the Zimbabwean government to let us know in general terms what they needed. There was no specific offer," he said. The only request received from the Zimbabwean government was for office space in Cape Town and Johannesburg. This had been provided.
Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma praised the efforts of her staff in dealing with the applications by Zimbabweans. She said that she hoped to meet with her Zimbabwean home affairs counterparts in the new year. South Africa would offer any assistance the Zimbabwean government needed to process the necessary documentation required by Zimbabweans. She said that so far there had not been any request from the Zimbabwean government for assistance.

Apleni said that about 2500 Zimbabweans had handed in fraudulent South African documentation as part of an amnesty that was offered to Zimbabweans living in the country on fraudulently obtained South African identity documentation. In September, Zimbabweans working illegally in South Africa were formally given an opportunity to legalise their stay in South Africa without having to leave the country. Applicants have to present supporting documentation including Zimbabwean passports, their birth certificates and letters from their employers or affidavits from the police to prove self-employment. Many do not have passports and the Zimbabwean government is only capable of processing 500 passports a day. Latest reports indicate it has received 50,000 applications for passports. (Business Day)

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