The process of officially documenting Zimbabweans in South Africa will kick off on September 20, Department Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni said on Friday.
Apleni’s announcement in Pretoria follows Cabinet’s announcement earlier this month that it had taken a decision to end the special dispensation for Zimbabwean nationals, introduced in April 2009.
The special dispensation allowed Zimbabweans crossing into South Africa the right to live, work, attend education facilities and access basic healthcare for a period of six months.
This was in response to the socio-economic challenges in Zimbabwe, which resulted in large-scale cross-border movement as vulnerable groups sought safety and alternative livelihoods in South Africa.
Apleni said 213 home affairs officials would be deployed nationwide to facilitate the issuing of valid permits.
Staffing levels may also increase to deal with the volumes of applicants.
The issuing of permits will be based on passport information gleaned from the Zimbabwean government.
He said Zimbabweans who did not have authentic travel documents would have to contact the embassy in Pretoria or the consulate in Johannesburg.
“The Zimbabwean minister of home affairs has assured us that everyone who needs to be documented will be enabled to do so,” he said.
Flood of applications
Asked whether the Zimbabwean government had the resources to deal with a possible flood of applications for legitimate travel documents, he said that in talks with the Zimbabwean government, officials had never indicated that they did not have sufficient resources.
He said the work, study and business permits would be issued free of charge.
The department would establish a call-centre number soon to deal with any enquiries.
The number would be announced soon, but enquiries can already be emailed to [email protected]
A “track-and-trace system would be in place to ensure applicants are informed via SMS of the status of their application”.
He said Zimbabweans would not be required to return to Zimbabwe to acquire machine-readable travel documents.
A spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Embassy in Pretoria said the cost of applying for a Zimbabwean passport had been dropped from $140 to $50.
He said the requirement that a Zimbabwean national had to apply in Zimbabwe for a valid birth certificate and a national identity card before obtaining a passport had been waived.
Zimbabweans could now apply for those documents at the embassy or the consulate without returning home.
He said Zimbabwe’s Registrar General, Tobaiwa Mudede, had promised to send “mobile units” that would travel to areas with large concentrations of Zimbabweans to facilitate the issuing of passports.
Further announcements would be made in the near future. — Sapa