Welcome to SA: Now get in the queue

While hundreds of Zimbabwean nationals have heeded the call by the Department of Home Affairs to get themselves documented in South Africa, many have complained of confusion, delays and long queues.

“I think there are about 600 and something people who are here. My number is number 250 and I came at 4am. So I don’t know. Please, please can they help us,” said a woman waiting in the queue outside the home affairs office in Harrison street on Tuesday.

The woman, who preferred to remain anonymous, was attempting to obtain a work permit.

Desperate Zimbabwean nationals without documentation to live and work in South Africa are queuing outside the home affairs office on Harrison Street and near Cosatu House in Johannesburg to get their papers in order before December 31.

Foreigners are not issued work permits if they are employed as domestic workers in South Africa, forcing them to reapply every three months.

“We don’t have money, so I think if they can give us the work permit; it’s a good idea and its better for us,” she said.

The documentation process, which started on September 20, stems from the withdrawal of the special dispensation for Zimbabweans announced by Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The dispensation, implemented in April last year, allowed Zimbabweans crossing into South Africa the right to live, work, attend education facilities and access basic healthcare services for six months without documentation.

It was introduced during the height of political turmoil in Zimbabwe, where political and economic instability blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s policies saw hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans flee to South Africa.

Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa without correct documentation have been given until December 31 to get their papers in order after which they will be deported.

While the number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa is estimated to be between one and two million, only about 350 000 have been documented through land, sea and at airports.

Losing hope
This week men, women and children stood outside the home affairs office on Harrison Street from as early as 2am with blankets and folders full of documents.

“Now we are losing hope. We don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow because they said the deadline is December 31 and some of us who have been here for days have still not been helped,” another woman in the queue told the M&G.

Another woman, who also preferred to remain anonymous, said she had been waiting since last Friday to be seen by a department official.

“The problem is that there is no one attending to us. No one is talking to us. We are just given an exercise book, so that we can write down our names and from there we are just standing here. At least if there was someone attending to us … they address us, they tell us what they want then we go back home and fetch the documents,” she told the M&G.

According to the Department of Home Affairs, Zimbabwean nationals need to bring their passport and confirmation of employment.

A Zimbabwean national who supplied his name as Simpson, said he runs a recruitment agency in Johannesburg.

He told the M&G that he had been forced in 2009 to register his business under another person’s name because he did not have the papers to legally live and work in South Africa.

He said he had visited the Home Affairs office in Randfontein and was told the documentation process was not for professionals, but for “general labourers”.

However when Simpson telephoned the Department of Home Affair’s call centre he was told that the documentation process was open to everyone.

“We want to be documented and to get legal status but if we are going to be frustrated in this way, people will opt to get fraudulent papers. We are professional people and we contribute to the economy,” Samuel told the M&G.

“We were told that as normal professional people we should apply through the normal permit process.”

While the Department of Home Affairs has extended an amnesty period, there is no guarantee that Zimbabwean nationals will qualify for legal documents.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba visited the home affairs office in Johannesburg on Wednesday after police intervened in scuffles between Zimbabwean nationals earlier this week.

He also visited the Bloemfontein office on Wednesday morning.

“The deputy minister has observed that the Bloemfontein office receives fewer numbers … so perhaps the deployment of officials should match the demand of the office,” said spokesperson Bayanda Mzoneli.

“So we might move officials from one office to the next.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

South Africa prioritises fossil fuels over clean energy in post-Covid-19 recovery packages

The country is among the G20 countries who have invested in electricity produced from coal, oil and gas at the cost of addressing climate change

Challenges and opportunities for telemedicine in Africa

Telemedicine in Africa is currently limited by the availability of basic infrastructure, but, considering the lack of doctors in rural areas, it is a vital component in addressing the continent’s healthcare needs

Fight the disease of corruption in the same way we fight the coronavirus

Gogo Dlamini, Themba Dlamini’s mother, died of Covid-19, but Mzanzi has a chance to rid the country of fraud and exploitation and instead serve ‘Gogo Dlamini’, the people of South Africa

This time it’s different: African economies may not survive

Amid the headwinds created by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s time the Aloe ferox, which survives in dry, harsh conditions, is nurtured — but the options are limited

The SADC will regret its approach to Mozambique’s insurgence

The SADC has been lackadaisical in its response to the insurgency in Mozambique and in so doing, is putting several other southern African countries at risk

EXCLUSIVE: OR Tambo’s forgotten speech at Chatham House

‘The choice we are faced with is to submit or fight’

Ingonyama Trust Board moves to retrench staff

More than 50 workers at the Ingonyama Trust Board have been issued section 189 notices

No proof of Covid-19 reinfection, yet

Some people report testing positive for Covid-19 after initially having the disease and then testing negative. Scientists are still trying to understand if this means that reinfection is possible

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday