South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma says thousands of Zimbabweans who have been denied study, work and business permits should “go home” or face deportation after the December 31 deadline.
Dlamini-Zuma said South Africa would not allow unemployed Zimbabweans to stay in the country.
“If somebody doesn’t have a job and they are not running from persecution from their country, if they can live in South Africa without a job it means they can live in Zimbabwe without a job,” Dlamini-Zuma told the media in South Africa on Tuesday.
“So why do they want to come here? Why do they want to continue living here if they are not studying?
“They don’t have a job and they are not doing any business, they are doing nothing so let them go and do nothing at home,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
Zimbabwe’s consular-general in South Africa, Chris Mapanga, said the embassy was “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 South Africa.
At the beginning of September, 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.
“They (Zimbabwean authorities) are experiencing serious problems because they can only print 500 passports a day, which is not much and they have a backlog in South Africa of 40 000 applications,” said Dlamini-Zuma.
“They have asked for assistance from us but we are very reluctant to move from the 31st (December deadline) because this is not the first deadline.”
Dlamini-Zuma reiterated that Zimbabweans had between April 2009 and April 2010 to regularise their stay in South Africa.
“There are people who leave South Africa to go to other countries (and they) must either be joining their parents, studying, working or have businesses. But you can’t just say I want to go and live in New Zealand and do nothing, the New Zealanders would not allow you to do that.
“That is why we are saying let’s regularise those people who are doing something.
“If you have a criminal record why should we keep you here when you have your own home because it means that you have come here to do crime? We don’t want that and I think it’s fair,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said only applications from Zimbabweans who applied before the December 31 deadline would be considered but warned that the department would not “open the door for anyone else”.
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.
Over three million Zimbabweans are believed to be staying in South Africa illegally.