1 October 2010
South Africa has taken a number of steps to help Zimbabweans living in the country to get their residence and other documents in order – including setting up a call centre, and a special monitoring team including NGOs and members of Zimbabwe’s MDC party.
Special dispensation ends 31 December
The South African government announced in August that, as of 31 December 2010, it would be ending a special dispensation allowing Zimbabweans to stay in the country without residence permits.
The decision was taken following an agreement between Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and her Zimbabwean counterparts. Dlamini-Zuma said the original agreement between South Africa and Zimbabwe was that the special dispensation would be in place for 12 months, from April 2009 to April 2010.
The government had decided to extend this period in order to give Zimbabweans time to apply for the travel documents, study or work permits they needed to ensure that their stay in South Africa was legal.
- A toll-free call centre has been put in place to help affected Zimbabweans: people wanting more information about the registration process can call 0800 864 488 or 0800 601 190.
‘No mass deportation’
Several non-governmental organisations have criticised the move, saying it would lead to massive deportation of vulnerable Zimbabweans.
However, Dlamini-Zuma said that Pretoria and Harare will be working together to ensure that all undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa were documented before the end of the year.
From 1 January 2011, those who were unregistered would face being deported – but this did not mean that South African officials would be embarking on a mass deportation campaign.
“We will not just be deporting people come 31 December,” Dlamini-Zuma said. “We are merely saying that all undocumented people must get their documents during this period to ensure that by January 1 next year their stay in South Africa is regularised. That is absolutely normal; every country does it.”
The government has also granted amnesty to Zimbabweans who obtained South African identification documents fraudulently, on condition that they returned these documents to the Home Affairs Department as soon as possible.
Businesses or educational institutions who had undocumented Zimbabweans in their organizations would also not be punished.
Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni said this week that thousands of Zimbabweans had come forward since the registration process started on 20 September.
However, there had been much confusion about which documents were needed in order to complete the process, which had led to many Zimbabweans being turned away after standing in long queues at Home Affairs offices.
‘Bring correct supporting documents’
Apleni said that, while Home Affairs was issuing permits to qualifying Zimbabweans free of charge, the normal processes still applied, and Zimbabweans had to bring the correct supporting documents with them when came to apply.
Apleni explained that according to the agreement between Pretoria and Harare, the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria and its consulates would assist with issuing valid travel documents to Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
Zimbabweans then had to take these travel documents, together with their supporting documents, to any of Home Affairs’ 46 regional offices countrywide.
There they would fill in an application form and have their fingerprints taken. Applicants would be informed via SMS of the status of their application.
Explaining what ws meant by “supporting documents”, Apleni said: “If you’re a domestic worker, your employer must submit an affidavit [stating employment]. If you are doing business, you need to produce proof of your business operations.”
He called on South African businesses and learning institutions to provide Zimbabwean employees and students with affidavits verifying their status.
“In this regard, we wish to assure South African businesses and employers that no punitive measures will follow such declaration of their employees.”
To help with the long queues, Home Affairs had deployed an additional 200 officials, both at headquarters and throughout the provinces, to facilitate the process.
Apleni said the department would also implement a queue management system, in addition to the monitoring system that had already been set up to identify problems areas.