Only 251 000 Zimbabweans managed to process the necessary documents to regularise their stay in South Africa by the expiry of the December 31 deadline, NewsDay can reveal.
This leaves an estimated 1 million Zimbabweans facing deportation from that country, a move that has already caused anxiety among the affected jobseekers without proper documentation in South Africa.
Human rights and other civic groups representing Zimbabwean illegal immigrants in South Africa have said they will immediately seek audience with the Home Affairs department to express their concern over the small number of Zimbabweans who had managed to register.
Zimbabwean authorities in the country said they would adopt a “wait and see” attitude as South Africa got down to vetting applicants.
A member of an inter-party committee set up to help Zimbabweans register for the permits, Ngqabutho Dube, expressed disappointment at the small figure that was announced by the South African Home Affairs department.
South African Home Affairs Director General, Mkuseli Apleni, told the media that by 4pm on Friday, 250 633 applications had been received at 42 offices across the country.
Friday was the deadline for the applications.
Home Affairs communications manager Ricky Naidoo said the department had so far ruled on 44 649 applications and more than 38 000 of them had been approved while 6 165 applications had been rejected.
The rejected applicants have a right to appeal.
Dube said there were several reasons why only a few Zimbabweans managed to register.
“The figure is too small and there are two reasons for it,” Dube said.
“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 had submitted their IDs. They are not sure what will happen if they come forward. They are hiding, trying to protect their investments.
“Secondly, it only came out on December 19 that Zimbabweans who did not have passports but had documentary proof of having applied, such as receipts, could apply as well. More so what is important to note is that whereas South Africa had 47 centres where Zimbabweans could apply for permits, Zimbabwe only had three centres receiving passport applications. The majority of Zimbabweans outside of the areas where these three centres were located could not access even that passport receipt. They therefore didn’t apply for passports,” he said.
Dube said they would be taking steps to engage the South African Home Affairs department on the issue.
“We are going to engage the Home Affairs department and give them the reasons we have given here for this figure. We will also tell them that they should have taken steps to work with the Zimbabwean government.
Where there is a South African centre there should have been Zimbabwean officials as well. They should share offices to make it easier,” he said.
The Zimbabwean Consul-General in South Africa, Chris Mapanga, said his department would wait and see where the process was leading as they felt that, “everything is under control” and could not be pressured by “media figures”.
“There is just too much media speculation out there,” Mapanga said. “We cannot work on media speculation. The figure of 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa is a media figure. How do you get the figures when other people are entering through undesignated points? We have to wait until we have the right figures.”
At the beginning of September last year, South African authorities announced they would begin deporting Zimbabweans on the last day of December and warned all undocumented Zimbabweans had until that date to sort out their paperwork.
On September 20 2010, South Africa’s Home Affairs department started issuing four-year free permits to Zimbabweans as a way of regularising their stay in the country and said only holders of a valid Zimbabwean passport were eligible for the permit.
A moratorium on Zimbabwean deportations was announced in May 2009, 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 say that even those who had receipts that showed they had applied for passports could use them to apply for the permits.
In mid December, the department said it wanted all Zimbabweans registered and those who did not have IDs and birth certificates should still be compiled on the list.