/ 1 August 2011

Smooth sailing as home affairs beats Zim permits deadline

Home Affairs successfully met its July 31 deadline for adjudicating Zimbabweans’ applications for permits, the department announced in Pretoria on Monday.

The 275762 Zimbabweans who applied for permits have until the end of August to finalise their applications and to collect them. Home Affairs still has about 130000 permits to issue, according to Jacob Mamabolo, head of the Zimbabwe Documentation Project.

Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will review the Zimbabwean Documentation Project in order to make sure applications were not “unduly rejected”. Spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa assured the Mail & Guardian that no deportations will take place until the minister’s review is complete.

Desperation mounts as undocumented Zimbabweans queue for permits to live in South Africa before the deadline approaches, or risk deportation.

Mamabolo said the department was not planning to target illegal Zimbabweans in a deportation campaign. Rather, undocumented Zimbabweans would be subject to South Africa’s normal immigration policies.

“The department still faces logistical challenges of mobilising all outstanding applicants to approach our offices to have their biometrical details such as fingerprints taken to enable the department to finalise their applications,” Mamoepa said of the 130000 permits to be issued. “On the other hand, some applicants are still waiting for travel documents to be issued by the Zimbabwean authorities.”

All applicants will receive text messages if applicants have any outstanding documents to complete, the department said.

The department would not speak to specific stages of progress, however Mamoepa said Zimbabwean authorities “are on course to ensure their nationals receive the necessary travel documents in due course … to ensure we can timeously conclude the project”.

Only those who successfully applied for special resident permits during the three-month application period from September 2009 to December 2010 would be eligible for a permit.

The hundreds of thousands of other Zimbabweans living in South Africa who either did not apply for permits or were rejected will be deported unless they have obtained legal status as a refugee.

“The way we have handled this project has been a success,” Mamoepa said. “We think it will be done in a reasonable period of time.”