Zimbabweans Immigrants in SA facing hard time
When the South African government announced tougher new immigration rules earlier this year they started panic and uncertainty among many Zimbabwean expats living and working in the nation. Some feared losing their jobs; others believed that it was nothing more than a ploy to force them outside.
"It's like they’re chasing others out, they are killing us," a Zimbabwean immigrant told one paper.
On 12 August, the Home Affairs minister in South Africa, Malusi Gigaba belatedly tried to ease those fears, declaring that a brand-new permit was created to re-register Zimbabwean nationals. Perhaps most significantly, they will not need to return to Zimbabwe to apply for it.
Holders of the new Zimbabwean Specific Dispensation permit will soon not be ineligible to remain in South Africa until the end of 2017.
What is the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation permit?
The Zimbabwean Special Dispensation permit (ZSP) is the successor to a permit issued by Home Affairs somewhat clumsily named dispensation of Zimbabweans permit (DZP) which was implemented in April 2009.
The aim of the DZP was to create a record of Zimbabweans, who had, until then, been living illegally in South Africa. It was also meant to offer an amnesty to Zimbabweans, who'd been using deceitful South African identity documents. Many of the Zimbabweans living in South Africa had fled the political violence, instability and economic crises that had dogged their home country for at least a decade.
As part of the DZP, the Home Affairs department waived application fees and some permit requirements. Zimbabweans were also allowed to submit their applications without all the normal supporting documents, such as passports, to speed the process up. (In many instances, those files were lost in the scramble to security in South Africa.)
Applications for the original DZP may be submitted from 1 September 2010 to 31 December 2010. Throughout that window Home Affairs, had received 294,511 applications (242,731 were allowed, with 51,780 either rejected or not finalised) for DZP permit to work, study or conduct company in South Africa. These were valid for four years from the date of issue.
All DZP permits will be considered null and void from 31 December this year.
What happens when the current DZP permit expired?
DZP permit holders who would like to stay in South Africa have two alternatives. If they meet the conditions for a routine business, work or study visas, they can be applied for by them, however, they need to do so in Zimbabwe.
The 2nd option is to apply for the recently introduced Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP). Only applicants who are on the DZP database - even when they were refused a DZP permit - may apply for the ZSP.
No new applications will be considered, and applicants must possess a legal passport that is Zimbabwean and evidence of employment, company or accredited study.
The ZSP will be valid for three years. Once that time is up, all Zimbabweans with ZSP licenses will be asked to make an application for standard business, work or study visas to remain and will have to return to Zimbabwe to do so.
Applying for a ZSP permit.
From 1 October 2014, applicants will have to apply online through VFS Global, an international business that the government has contracted to process the applications. Four new VFS offices will soon be started in Durban, Cape Town, Polokwane and Midrand to handle the large quantities of applicants anticipated, as well as the existing centers in Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, George, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.
The form is available at www. vfsglobal .com/zsp/southafrica As well as the cost of the permit is R870 per application for an adult; R800 for a minor. The amount can be paid with a debit or credit card at a VFS Global office or into the VFS bank account.
Applicants need to fill in an online form and submit it before 31 December. Afterwards, they have to phone the VFS Global contact centre to schedule an appointment before 30 April 2015, while allowing enough time to obtain supporting files. Rescheduling will simply be allowed under special circumstances.
At the appointment, applicants must submit their application in person and then digital photograph, and a digital finger scan will probably be shot.
Applicants are required to really have a clean police record but, according to Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete. They won't have to obtain a police clearance certificate themselves. VFS Global submits applicants to the South African Police Service for clearance and will compile a listing of names.
A ZSP permit will not be automatically issued as the application will be adjudicating by the Department of Home Affairs.
Attorneys for Human Rights (LHR) are accessible to help and advise applicants.
How many Zimbabweans live in South Africa?
How many Zimbabwean nationals live in South Africa? Estimates range from one to three million. However, as Africa Check discovered, the numbers are unable to be substantiated and also the data is not reliable.
A recent report published on the site of SW Radio Africa stated that "it's believed' there are "between two and three million Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa." Mentioning interviews performed by the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, the report also stated the numbers of Zimbabwean nationals crossing the boundary have nearly doubled since July this year when the state held elections. A reader asked us to look into the claims.
The SW Radio Africa reported
The SW Radio Africa report, which has been copied on several websites, including Zimbabwe Scenario and All Honest, Free Africa & Zimbabwe Elections, doesn't provide a source for its amounts. Even so, similar estimates, ranging from 1.5-million to 1.9-million, 2-million and even 3-million have been broadly published in recent years.
Citing an unnamed "South African official" interviewed by IPS, the SW Radio Africa report states the quantities of Zimbabwean nationals crossing into South Africa have nearly doubled — from 400 to more than 700 daily — since the disputed 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections.
A South African soldier checks the passports of Zimbabwean citizens who walk into the Beit Bridge border post between both states to buy food said data is not confirmed. Africa Check requested the variety of documented and for numbers of undocumented Zimbabweans living in South Africa from the Zimbabwe Consulate in Pretoria.
For data on the numbers of individuals crossing the border from Zimbabwe to South Africa before and after the elections;they contacted to South Africa's Department of Home Affairs.
Africa check says: Our queries were referred by the Consulate to the Department of Home Affairs. The section's spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, declined to comment on the amounts referred to in the SW Radio Africa post, stating that they were not based on Home Affairs reports. Added questions about the accessible data which were e-mailed to Mamoepa went unanswered.
We then approached Lunga Ngqengelele, the official spokesman for Home Affairs minister Naledi Pandor. He referred us the department's chief director, to Jack Monedi for allowing. Monedi replied to emailed questions eight days later by forwarding them to a different official, Phindiwe Mbhele.
In an e-mail sent on 1 November to Monedi, Mbhele, Mamoepa, Immigration Service deputy director general Jackie McKay and Home Affairs deputy manager Ben Makhalemele, Ngqengelele expressed frustration in the lack of improvement: "It has been over two weeks, and I am as yet to get a reply to this simple query. Let alone proof that someone is working on it."
To date, Africa Check hasn't received a response to our questions. If the department supplies us with the information, we've requested this report will be updated by us.
How dependable is the accessible data?
Organizations and individuals interviewed for this report said the section kept the comprehensive amounts on immigration and border crossings. However, as we have reported before, there are questions about the truth of the data of the department.
Professor Loren Landau, the manager of the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University, said the section's data is "seriously disaggregated with little discussion of the way the information was assembled or its possible shortcomings, to say nothing of their delays in issuing reports or their unwillingness to share advice."
"What is perhaps most concerning is they frequently seem to base policy decisions on impressionistic or badly analyzed info," Landau said.
Landau said there were a number of potential explanations for the reported upsurge in folks crossing the border.
"First, individuals may have gone house to vote and then returned to South Africa shortly afterward. This would have accounted for an up to tick. Second, some people may have been waiting to see [election] results [in Zimbabwe] and then made. Third, we may only be seeing the resumption of normal commerce, which was informally suspended for the election."
The NGO Medicines Sans Frontiers, which provides extensive medical and humanitarian aid in the South African town of Musina near the Zimbabwean border, told Africa Check that "the number of entrances in refugee centers in Musina has been steady" since the July elections.