As the deadline for registration of Zimbabweans seeking documents in South Africa looms, thousands of Zimbabweans are flooding registration centres seeking permits, officials have said.
In an interview on Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s consular-general in South Africa, Chris Mapanga, said they were “very busy” trying to keep up with the pressure of Zimbabwean nationals who had come forward in a last-minute rush to regularise their stay in that country ahead of the December 31 deadline.
“The numbers of people approaching us has increased as the deadline looms. Some companies have closed for Christmas and people are able to visit us,” he said.
The consular-general said he was not in a position to give figures of the number of Zimbabweans who had come forward because the huge numbers that had turned up kept changing.
“It’s dynamic and the numbers are changing fast. We can’t have the figures until the last minute. It is work in progress,” he said.
At the beginning of September this year, South African authorities announced they would begin deporting Zimbabweans on the last day of December this year and warned that all unregistered Zimbabweans had until that date to sort out their paperwork.
On September 20, South Africa started issuing four-year free permits to Zimbabweans as a way of regularising their stay in the country and only holders of a valid Zimbabwean passport were eligible for the permit.
A moratorium on Zimbabwean deportations was announced in May last year, at the same time the South African government announced it intended giving Zimbabweans a special dispensation permit, that would assist Zimbabweans in regularising their stay in South Africa.
Due to the challenges faced by Zimbabweans in acquiring passports, the South African Home Affairs department relaxed requirements to the extent that even those who had receipts showing they had applied for passports could use them to apply for the permits.
Two weeks ago, the department said it wanted all Zimbabweans to register and those who did not have IDs and birth certificates should still be compiled on the list.
A member of an inter-party committee set up to help Zimbabweans register for the permits, Ngqabutho Dube, said they had also been overwhelmed by the number of people eager to beat the deadline to register.
“At the moment we are busy, there are a lot of people who are applying. Some only have IDs and no passports, but they have all come out in large numbers.
“If they don’t have any documents, they make affidavits at police stations so that they can be included in a list that we are compiling. And there are so many of them,” he said.
Dube said there seemed to be panic among the people as the deadline approached.
“Everyone now is coming forward. Going into the weekend, we had 250 forms that we were given by the Home Affairs department and by Monday morning, they were all taken.
“We have been given another 250 forms and they have run out. We didn’t realise that so many people wanted these permits.
“People are now feeling the heat as the deadline approaches. There is panic – people now realise the minister (of Home Affairs) is serious on her deadline.
They are applying in hundreds as the deadline approaches. Even on Christmas Day, we were getting enquiries from Zimbabweans who wanted to register,” he said.