By Nqobile Bhebhe
PANIC has gripped thousands of Zimbabweans in South Africa ahead of today’s permit application deadline as it emerged yesterday that scores were still to apply.
Mid this year, South Africa’s Home Affairs Department introduced new permits for Zimbabweans living in that country.
Ngqabutho Mabhena, who was actively involved in the special permits negotiations four years ago yesterday confirmed the panic mood.
“There is panic. Those affected fear they might be closed out because they did not receive reference numbers to apply for special permits even though they applied in 2010 and did not receive permits,” he said.
“These are the ones we are trying to help.”
Mabhena said 206 170 Zimbabweans had applied for the Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP).
“Zimbabweans who applied for Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project (DZP) permits in 2010 and have proof of application are allowed to submit such proof to VFS before December 31 2014,” he said.
“To date, 206 170 Zimbabweans have applied for ZSP, with 196 816 booking their appointments.
“In 2010, 294 511 applied for DZP permits, 242 731 were issued with permits and 51 780 were rejected for various reasons.
“Those 51 780 Zimbabweans are eligible to apply for ZSP.”
Thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa who had come for the holidays have started returning to the neighbouring country, although speculation was rife yesterday that South African officials were confiscating South African passports used by Zimbabweans at the border. It was reported that hundreds of Zimbabweans were using fraudulently acquired documents.
More than 250 000 Zimbabweans were issued with permits in the 2009 Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project, a special dispensation programme to legalise their stay in South Africa.
Most permits issued then are set to expire today, fuelling anxiety.
Only those with this initial permit would be allowed to apply for the ZSP.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans are believed to have fled the country, the majority of them to South Africa, at the height of Zimbabwe’s economic and political crises. NewsDay