By Thupeyo Muleya
At least 40 000 Zimbabweans face deportation from South Africa after they failed to meet yesterday’s deadline to apply for permits under that country’s “Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP)” window.
In a statement yesterday, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs said it had received 207 802 applications by end of day on Tuesday.
The ZSP programme replaces the Zimbabwe Dispensation Programme which started in May 2009 and expired yesterday.
The South African Cabinet approved the new permit on August 6 following engagements by the two countries’ Home Affairs ministers.
A total of 245 000 Zimbabweans were eligible to apply for the new permits, which were being processed by the Visa Facilitation Services (VFS).
During ZDP, 295 000 Zimbabweans applied for the permit and over 245 000 permits were granted, with the balance being denied due to lack of passports or non-fulfilment of other special requirements.
“We wish to announce that as of Tuesday, 30 December 2014, 207 802 applications had been received, while 198 840 appointments had been booked through VFS.
“We wish to extend our gratitude to all eligible Zimbabweans who participated in this process as well as to VFS who played an integral role in assisting the Department of Home Affairs in reaching this milestone,” reads part of the statement.
The department said the closure of the ZSP application process also marked the expiry date of the old Dispensation for Zimbabwean Project (ZSP).
“This means that ZSP permits whose expiry dates were beyond 31 December 2014 have been brought forward to today. In this regard, 245 000 ZSP holders were eligible to apply for the ZSP.
“In line with the announcement made by Minister Malusi Gigaba on 12 August 2014, the closure of the ZSP application process also marked the expiry date of the old Dispensation for Zimbabwean Programme (ZSP),” said the Department.
However, many people faced a number of challenges.
The processing of permits was affected by a lot of technical glitches, which resulted in at least 37 198 Zimbabweans failing to regularise their stay in that country.
The Department of Home Affairs began accepting online applications on October 1, last year.
The VFS handled the application process, which were adjudicated by the Department of Home Affairs.
They opened 10 ZSP application centres in the provinces of Gauteng (Midrand), Western Cape (Cape Town), Limpopo (Polokwane) and Kwazulu-Natal (Durban).
Other centres were in George, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.
After making applications online, one had to secure an appointment to hand in the documents at the Home Affairs offices through their call centre.
In separate telephone interviews recently, many holders of the previous ZDP permits said the VFS website was constantly down and that they were finding it difficult to complete all the initial processes.
Some failed to get through to the VFS call centre where the number was continually unreachable.
Others said they failed to apply for the permits after failing to secure sworn affidavits from employers, which was one of the requirements for the permits.
According to the new regulations, one needed a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment (confirmation letter of employment and a sworn affidavit statement from employer), business or accredited study and be free of a criminal record. The Chronicle