Deadline extended for Zimbabweans
The deadline for applications by Zimbabwean nationals to regularise their stay in South Africa has been extended to March 31.
This was announced by Ricky Naidoo, spokesperson for the South African Department of Home Affairs. The announcement comes in the wake of an earlier announcement by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) that it is preparing to assist Zimbabwean nationals facing deportation from South Africa.
Naidoo stated that the extension to the deadline would provide the Department of Home Affairs with the opportunity to process the 275 000 permit applications received from Zimbabwean nationals. He also said the Department hopes that the processing will be completed in the next few weeks.
In an interview during the weekend, a member of the inter-party committee assisting Zimbabwean nationals in the registration process, David Dube, stated that his team would be meeting with the Department of Home Affairs during the course of this week to discuss the issue of permits.
“What we will be doing during these three months is to fully understand the reasons for department’s refusal of thousands of applications that have been turned down” he said.
The number of Zimbabwean nationals who have been denied permits has already risen to 10 000.
He stated that they would discuss the property rights of Zimbabwean immigrants with the Department of Home Affairs.
“There are people who acquired property and bonds using South African IDs. We would like to engage the department over the fate of their property. Those who have surrendered their IDs should not lose their property and their bonds” he said.
In September 2010, the South African government introduced a moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabwean nationals, and gave them until 31 December 2010 to regularise their stay by applying for work, business or study permits.
According to Dube, stakeholders are satisfied that the Department of Home Affairs has “stopped deportations for now.”
“What we agreed with them was that they would stop deporting Zimbabweans until the whole thing of permits is over” he said.
According to the IOM, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean migrants could face deportation from South Africa, “as only about a sixth of the estimated Zimbabwean irregular migrant population applied for legal status.”
“There are an estimated 1,5 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, many of whom migrated as a result of the social and economic unrest in Zimbabwe in recent years” the organisation claimed in a statement.
The IOM has stated that is on standby, ready to provide free transportation to deported persons from the Beitbridge and Plumtree border posts.
“(The) IOM, together with humanitarian partners and the Zimbabwean and South African governments will provide humanitarian and protection assistance to vulnerable returnees, including unaccompanied minors.
“Under the plan, IOM with support from local and international organisations has prepositioned non-food items including tents and blankets at reception and support centres at the Beitbridge and Plumtree border crossings in Zimbabwe.”
According to Dube, there are several reasons why so few Zimbabwean nationals have registered.
“The figure is too small and there are two reasons for it. Zimbabweans who are holding South African identity documents (IDs) did not come out in numbers to submit them. We are yet to know how many had submitted. Two weeks ago, less than 2 000 people had submitted their IDs. They are not sure what will happen if they come forward. They are hiding, trying to protect their investments.”