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South Africa halts arrest, deportation of Zimbabweans

By Mashudu Netsianda

The South African government has temporarily stopped the arrest and deportation of Zimbabweans using expired permits with revelations that more than 40,000 applications have so far been processed under the new Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) dispensation.

SA Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni
SA Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni

In August, South Africa announced the introduction of the ZSP from October 1 that allows Zimbabwean holders to work, conduct business or study in South Africa for three years, until the end of December 2017, replacing the discontinued Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project (DZP) permit.

The move ended months of speculation and anxiety among many permit-holders, following reports that the country was introducing tough measures for immigrants.

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Yesterday South African Home Affairs director-general, Mkuseli Apleni told Chronicle that Zimbabwean holders of expired DZP permits will not be deported.

“Zimbabwean nationals travelling on expired DZP permits will not be deported or declared undesirable at our ports of entry, or arrested for being illegal if they are found in South Africa for being in possession of those expired permits until we’ve completed the ZPS,” said Apleni.

He did not elaborate on the timeframe, when the deportation of those with expired permits will not be deported.

Apleni, however, said the position was not the same for those who failed to acquire permits in 2010.

“We want to make it clear that those who failed to acquire permits under that DPZ in 2010 face deportation and this is in line with our new immigration regulations,” he said.

About 242,000 Zimbabweans who benefited in 2010 under the DPZ programme are eligible to apply for work and study permits under the ZSP programme.

The ZSP will be valid for three years.

According to the ZPS official website, VFS Global, an organisation contracted by the South African government to receive and manage visa and permit applications in that country, had by Friday issued 41,446 Zimbabweans with permits.

South Africa started accepting permit applications for the 245,000 Zimbabweans who benefited under DZP on October 1 as part of the ZSP programme.

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi had to engage his South African counterpart, Malusi Gigaba over the issue, which subsequently culminated in the extension of the permits to December 2017.

The applicants are required to first complete an online application form and then book for an appointment date for submission of all documents through a call centre (+27) 87 825 0675. One needs to pay an application fee of R870.

In June, Gigaba announced that VFS Global, a worldwide outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments, had been appointed to receive and manage visa and permit applications in South Africa.

The company is mandated to automate the application processes, develop a solution for biometric intake in line with the new immigration regulations, manage a dedicated permitting call centre and deliver outcomes to clients efficiently and timely.

VFS Global has established 11 Visa Facilitation Centres in South Africa’s nine provinces, with Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces each having two centres in light of the high volume of applications.

ZSP is a programme that replaced DZP, which started in May 2009 and would expire on December 31. During the DZP 295,000 Zimbabweans applied for permits and about 245,000 were successful.

Under the new regulation, DZP permit-holders, who wish to remain in South Africa after the expiry of their permits, are allowed to reapply for the ZSP as long as they have a valid Zimbabwean passport; evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clear criminal record.

Applications will close on December 31, 2014.

There are no accurate estimates on the number of undocumented or illegal Zimbabwean immigrants living in South Africa.

Some reports, however suggest that there are an estimated three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, the majority of them concentrated in the areas around Gauteng – the country’s major economic hub. The Chronicle