Zimbabwe’s consular-general in South Africa, Chris Mapanga, has dispelled fears of immediate deportation of thousands of Zimbabweans from the neighbouring country.
Mapanga said “regularisation of documentation is an ongoing process”.
South Africa has set a December 31 deadline for Zimbabweans to legalise their stay in that country.
“Every Zimbabwean should be registered with our embassy here and should acquire proper documents such as passport, work and study permits by December 31 but the South Africans have not mentioned any deportation of people,” Mapanga said.
“No Zimbabwean will be immediately deported after December 31 as the regularisation of documentation is an ongoing process.”
Only 40 000 Zimbabweans out of an estimated 1,5 million have so far managed to acquire documents to date prompting fears that the New Year could see mass deportations.
Zimbabwe has dispatched registry officials to help process documents for people living illegally in South Africa and Mapanga warned that those who do not make efforts to regularise their situations risked being thrown out of South Africa.
Registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede recently revealed that the Zimbabwean government was unlikely to meet the December 31 deadline to issue identity and travel documents to Zimbabweans living illegally in South Africa leaving up to well over 1 million people at the risk of deportation.
Mudede told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs that about 1,5 million Zimbabweans were living illegally in South Africa, although many others were there legally.
The South African government recently ended a special dispensation allowing Zimbabweans to stay in that country without documentation and urged all illegal residents to acquire valid identity documents and then apply for permits to avoid being deported.
South Africa announced that those who failed to acquire education, employment or business permits before December 31, would be deported.
Mudede said the South Africans appeared determined on the deportations, but said it would be impossible for his office to issue documents to everyone within that timeframe.
“It’s a question which we have asked (whether it would be possible to issue documents to everyone),” Mudede said. “It’s a question everyone is asking . . . but the South Africans appear serious on the deadline. They are saying everyone who is not properly registered will be sent back home after December 31.”
Last week, South Africa’s deputy director-general of immigration Jack Matei said that Zimbabweans who stayed in the country for more than 90 days in a calendar year would need to get visas.
“We are very clear on the matter,” said Matei. “If a Zimbabwean travels to SA he or she is supposed to have a study or work permit for him to stay in the country legally.
“In the event that one enters the country saying they are just visiting, they will be given 90 days to stay. When the days lapse, they will be required to have a visa or else face deportation.”