By Sibanengi Dube
The 31 December deadline, given by the South African government to Zimbabweans to sort out their papers or face deportation, is quickly becoming an uglier reality than what we thought.The bottom truth is that very few people will be able to beat the closing date. Not because they are not willing to take advantage of the amnesty. The two parties, SA and Zimbabwe government are changing goal posts.
The same amnesty that was extended by the South African government to Zimbabweans holding South African ID’s was not clearly issued by the Zimbabwe government whose constitution criminalizes duals citizenship.
It also emerged that names of Zimbabweans submitting their South African ID’s will be passed on to the Zimbabwe government. These revelations are surely sending cold shivers down the spines of many. There is a danger that one might find himself stateless, after ceding the South African citizenship, there is nothing that can stop the Zimbabwe government from disowning the imposters.
The Zimbabwe government is still to provide the passports that are a pre-requisite for one to get a work, study or business permit. I was at the Zimbabwe consulate on Monday for a survey. Less than a dozen of people were seen collecting their new passports while the majority was told to wait for an SMS before visiting the Consulate.
One senior official who identified himself as Tirivanhu claimed that they have 5000 passports already waiting for collections. The other obstacle hampering quick delivery of documents is the skeletal staff working at the Zimbabwe consulate’s Beula Park in Isando.
One man verifies everyone applying for ID documents and another one a MR J. Shumba fills forms for everyone. The two men are expected to attend to a queue of people that easily measure up to two kilometres if straightened out.
I talked to a Mr Mambo, the boss of the ID department. I asked him why he is not beefing up in his personnel in the face of high volumes of applicants. He indicated that the two people were enough. Mambo then changed tune and started saying they were using sequential batches that forbid multiple issuing of IDs papers.
However some workers confided in me that the Consulate does not have the capacity to beef-up their skeleton staff compliment due to financial constraints. I asked Mambo if he was willing to use volunteers to speed up the process. In response Mambo said: “I don’t need them”
I suppose a lot of educated Zimbabweans staying in South Africa who spoke to me will honestly be willing to assist. There is nothing complex about the filling in of forms that Mr. J Shumba does, except asking applicants to confirm names of their Village Chiefs and birth places.
Honestly some teachers and college graduates idling at Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Church would be glad to help out. They are former civil servants who were frustrated out of the system by poor salaries before the dollarization of the economy. However we were told that ID’s and Passports were high national security documents which cannot be issued by any other Zimbabweans.
A noble excuse, I suppose.
I then walked down the stairs where the plastic IDs are being processed and issued. There is only one lady, who interviews everyone applying for long birth certificates. Then the same poor guy who was assisting in verifying other applicants with Mr. J Shumba followed down stairs to start shooting ID pictures for another snaking queue of patient Zimbabweans willing to legalize their stay in South Africa before 31 December.
There is only one camera to cater for the applicants.
There is also a notice on the entrance of the Registration hall. The Consulate will be closed on 22, 23, and 24 of course 25, 26 and will only open on 27 to 30. On 31 December, they will only be open until 13:00 hours. This week I shall be joining the Passport application queue.
I rest my case.