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South Africa will not deport Zimbabweans

South African government officials say they will not deport Zimbabweans who fail to sort out their paperwork before the December 31 deadline. Speaking to journalists Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said her ministry could also miss the deadline because there was still a lot of work to be done.

It’s thought the climb down was made following a meeting between South African government officials and the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum.

“Basically, what we were doing today (Tuesday) was to look at what remains to be done in the last days before the end of December. We have a half month left, we will also have some interruptions with some holidays until the 31st December 2010 which is the deadline for the conclusion of this process,” Minister Zuma said

“The first one with which we are faced is that the Zimbabweans cannot produce passports at the rate that will allow everyone who has applied to have it before the end of December this year. They are only able to produce 500 passports per day and they work five days per week, at the maximum. As we speak, close to 40 000 applications remain. We will clearly then not be able to complete this backlog in the remaining days.”

“We will then be sure they have applied for their passports. Once they have filled in the forms and bring them to us, we will keep them aside until their passports are received and we will then complete the process. This is the proposed solution to the challenge. In this way, no one can say that they were still waiting for the passports at the time the deadline for the process was reached,” Zuma added.

“The next challenge with which we are faced is that we ourselves will probably not be able to complete finalising these applications by 31 December 2010.  In part, because the verification by the police — fingerprinting and verification of records — takes time.  We have then said this is fine, let people bring in their forms even if they have not yet taken their fingerprints.”

“We will then call them in batches to have their fingerprints taken. Their forms must be in, even if not accompanied by fingerprints because this process is taking time. No one will be turned back with a correctly completed form. These will be collected and the applicants will be called in to have their fingerprints taken. All this is to ensure that everyone is inside the process by 31 December 2010,” she said.

Over a million Zimbabweans running away from the political and economic crisis back home are estimated to be living in South Africa.

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