Anxious Zimbabweans living in South Africa have until the end of today to regularise their documents in that country or face deportation.
Over three million Zimbabweans are believed to be staying in South Africa illegally.
South Africa’s Home Affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, on Tuesday said Zimbabweans who have been denied study, work and business permits should “go home” or face deportation after the December 31 deadline.
Media reports from South Africa yesterday said long queues formed throughout that country’s Home Affairs department offices as desperate Zimbabweans made last-ditch efforts to apply to make their stay in South Africa legal.
“There are big numbers; queues are moving fast,” Gauteng provincial spokesperson Ronald Ndema told local media.
Ndema was confident that everyone who was standing in the queue would be attended to.
“It’s a sickness in our country. Even in soccer, if you say the game starts at 16:00, you expect them to be there at three but they come 15 minutes after the game has started,” said Ndema.
In the Western Cape, provincial spokesperson Yusuf Simons said he was helping out at the office adding that the department had increased the number of staffers manning the office.
“We have doubled our staff complement. We’ll help everyone that’s here even if it’s up to midnight tonight,” said Simons.
According to the reports in the Northern Cape and Free State, things were much quieter.
“It’s going very well,” Free State spokesperson Bonakele Mayekiso said. “But we don’t have big numbers. There are four people in the queue.”
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.
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.