HomeSouth Africa

Zimbabweans in South Africa

Zimbabweans in South Africa
Like Tweet Pin it Share Share Email

Zimbabweans in South Africa

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 found, the amounts cannot be substantiated and also the data is not reliable.


A recent report published on the website of SW Radio Africa said that “it’s believed’ there are ‘between two and three million Zimbabweans living and working” in South Africa. Citing interviews conducted by the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, the report also said 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 report, which has been reproduced on numerous sites, including Zimbabwe Scenario and All Free Africa & Fair Zimbabwe Elections, doesn’t provide a source for its amounts. Nevertheless, similar approximations, ranging from 1.5-million to 1.9-million, 2-million and even 3-million have been extensively published in recent years.

Citing an unnamed “South African border official” interviewed by IPS, the SW Radio Africa report states that 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.


Zimbabweans in South Africa
Zimbabweans in South Africa

Unanswered questions

A South African soldier checks the passports of Zimbabwean citizens who walk across the Beit Bridge border post between the two nations also confirm that data is not confirmed for border crossing. Africa Check requested South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs and the Zimbabwe Consulate in Pretoria for data on the numbers of people crossing the border from Zimbabwe to South Africa before and after the elections; along with the amount of documented and undocumented Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

Our queries were referred by the Consulate to the Department of Home Affairs. The department’s spokesman, Ronnie Mamoepa, declined to comment in the numbers referred to in the SW Radio Africa article, saying that they weren’t based on Home Affairs reports. Added questions about the accessible data that were emailed to Mamoepa went unanswered.

Lunga Ngqengelele, the official spokesman for Home Affairs minister Naledi Pandor was subsequently approached by us. He referred us to Jack Monedi, the chief manager of the department for letting. Emailed questions were responded to by Monedi 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 director Ben Makhalemele, Ngqengelele expressed frustration at the lack of improvement: “It has been over a couple of weeks, and I am as yet to get an answer to this easy query. Let alone evidence that someone is working on it.”

To date, Africa Check has not received a response to our questions. In the event, the department supplies us with the information we have requested. This report will be updated by us.

How dependable is the data that is available?

A Zimbabwean farm worker crops pumpkins on March 17, 2008 on a South African farm in Waterpoort. Other organizations and individuals interviewed for this report said the detailed amounts on border crossings, and immigrations were kept by the department. However, as we’ve reported before, there are questions about the truth of the department’s data.

Professor Loren Landau, the manager of the African Centre for Migration and Society at Wits University, said the department’s data is “frequently ill disaggregated with little discussion of the means by which the information was collected or its possible shortcomings, to say nothing of their delays in issuing reports or their unwillingness to share information.

“What is perhaps most concerning is they frequently look forward to basing policy decisions on impressionistic or badly analyzed info,” Landau said.

Landau said there were a number of possible explanations for the reported upsurge in folks crossing the boundary.

“First, folks may have gone home to vote and then returned to South Africa shortly afterward. This would have accounted for an up to tick. Second, some individuals may have been waiting to see [election] results [in Zimbabwe] and then made. Third, we may just 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 arrivals in refugee centers in Musina has been steady” since the July elections.

The organization’s media liaison officer, Kate Ribet, said she was not able to confirm a doubling of numbers, adding that there could be “seasonal factors” leading to an increase in border crossings, like farms hiring staff for the harvest.

Approximations of Zimbabweans living in South Africa vary broadly.

A Zimbabwean shopper returns to his home-town Beitbridge after Christmas shopping in South African border town of Musina said they are facing lack of medicine. Alexander Joe Figures from South Africa’s 2011 Census suggest that 3.3%or about 1.7-millionof the country’s 51.7-million population are “non-South African” citizens. Data collated by the World Bank and the United Nations also implied a migrant population of about 1.86-million folks.

“While Zimbabweans are the largest single group of foreigners in South Africa, they’re by no means the only one. Indeed, there are substantial quantities of Mozambicans and Basotho, to say nothing of other groups,” said Landau.

A 2011 study by Jonathan Crush, a director of the Southern African Migration Programme found that figures for South Africa’s migrants, including Zimbabwean nationals, vary widely. The study, Complex Moves, Disconnected Responses: Labor Migration in South Africa looked at three sources: the 2001 South African Census the Sussex University Global Migrant Source Database and the World Bank.

“Exact information on migrant stocks in South Africa is hard to get, to a certain extent, because of the phenomenon of irregular migration and up to a point because of insufficient data collection systems,” Crush reasoned.

Landau agrees that there are no precise figures, and the data is not reliable. He claims that both authorities and non-governmental organizations have a vested interest in exaggerating immigrant numbers. By doing so, governments can “warrant more restrictionsand NGOs can secure donor funds.

Migration data ‘patchy and skewed’

Zimbabwean refugees at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg on January 13, 2010 after fleeing their country, where they took up residence. For the last two years, Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) has published a yearly report on immigration figures drawn from Home Affairs data on permanent and provisional residency permits issued in the preceding year. StatsSA says that the sectionsmanagerial procedures have generated valuable databases of governmental records on issuance of interim and permanent residence permits.

Nevertheless, StatsSA’s 2011 report warned that state and international data on migration tendto be normally scanty, patchy and skewedand stated that there clearly was anurgent need to recognize a national information source that can be relied upon for objective and sustainable data.

Such shortcomings often negatively influence policies, debates, dialogues, etc. in addition to distort communication about migration. This leads to anti-migrant sentiments that could bring about harmful stereotyping, discrimination and xenophobia, particularly seeing the volume and labour force characteristics of immigrants. Therefore, the availability of reliable data will contribute considerably to maximize the advantages and minimize the expenses of international migration and encourage ‘a more extensive and powerful understanding that migration is both a reality and also a requirement.’

While StatsSA’s reports on immigration amounts since 2012 are useful snapshots of specific years, they don’t provide data in the overall numbers of folks of particular nationalities whodwell and workin South Africa. Nor do they include accurate approximations of the quantities of undocumented or illegal migrants to South Africa.

The most-recent report, for instance, shows the Department of Home Affairs processed a total of 1,283 permanent residency applications in 2012. Of these, just 251 were from Zimbabwean nationals. A total of 141,550 temporary residency permits were issued in 2012 permits being with 24,370 issued to Zimbabwean nationals.

Judgment: The amounts are unable to be substantiated

claims that there are between two and three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa cannot be substantiated. The 2011 Census implies that there are about 1.7 millionnon-South African citizensliving in South Africa. This amount includes not Zimbabwe alone and figures from other nations.

The StatsSA reports on immigration amounts are restricted to specific years and do not contain data on the overall quantities of foreign residents in South Africa.

There are also no accurate estimates of the quantities of illegal or undocumented migrants currently living in South Africa.

It claims that Zimbabwean nationals crossing over boundaries into South Africa have doubled since the elections in July can besides not be confirmed and there may be a range of reasons for increases.

Worryingly, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs appears reluctant or unable to supply accessibility to its data. This is actually the second report that Africa checks have published where the department has failed to supply essential information to us despite numerous e-mails and calls.

Undoubtedly, as StatsSA has noted, there is anurgent need to recognize a national information source that can be relied upon for objective and sustainable data.Accurate data is critical to arguments and key policy decisions. The lack of data also contributes to be anti- xenophobia and migrant opinions.

When the South African government declared more demanding new immigration rules earlier this year, they started panic and doubt among many Zimbabwean expats living and working in the state. Some feared losing their jobs; others considered that it was nothing more than a ploy to force them outside.

It is like they are pursuing 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 attempted to calm those concerns, declaring that a fresh permit was created to re-register Zimbabwean nationals. Maybe most significantly, they are not going to have to return to Zimbabwe to apply for it.

Holders of the brand new Zimbabwean Specific Dispensation permit will likely not be ineligible for continue in South Africa until the end of 2017.

What’s the Zimbabwean Specific Dispensation permit?

The Zimbabwean Specific Dispensation permit (ZSP) is the successor to a permit issued as section of the Home Affairs section’s somewhat clumsily named dispensation of Zimbabweans Job (DZP) which was executed in April 2009.

The DZP’s purpose was to produce a record of Zimbabweans, who had, until then, been living illegally in South Africa. It was, likewise, meant to offer an amnesty to Zimbabweans, who’d been using deceptive South African identity documents. Most 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 a portion of the DZP, the Home Affairs department waived application fees and some permit conditions. Zimbabweans were also permitted to submit their applications without all the normal supporting files, like passports, to speed the procedure up. (In many cases, those records were lost in the scramble to security in South Africa.)

Applications for the first DZP licenses 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 finalized) for DZP licenses study, to work or conduct company in South Africa. These were legal for four years from the date of the problem.

All DZP licenses will be considered null and void from 31 December this year.

What occurs when the present DZP licenses expire?

DZP permit holders who want to stay in South Africa have two options. Should they fulfill the conditions for a routine company, work or study visas they are able to apply for them. However, they should do this in Zimbabwe.

The next alternative would be to apply for the recently introduced Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP). Only applicants who are on the DZP databaseeven when they were refused a DZP permitmay apply for the ZSP.

No new applications will probably be considered, and applicants must have a Zimbabwean passport that is legal and evidence of employment, company or accredited study.

The ZSP is going to be valid for three years. After that time is upward, all Zimbabweans with ZSP licenses will likely have to apply for regular work, study or company visas to be able to continue and will need to return to Zimbabwe to do that.

Applying for a ZSP permit.

From 1 October 2014, applicants will need to apply online through VFS Global, a global business 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 Port Elizabeth, George, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit and Rustenburg. (Locate the office addresses here.)

The form is accessible by www. Vfs global .com /zsp/southafrica as well as the price of the permit is R870 per application for an adult; R800 for a minor. The sum may be paid in the VFS bank account or with a debit or credit card at a VFS Global office.

Applicants must fill in an Internet form and submit it before 31 December. Afterwards applicants have to telephone the VFS Global contact centre ( 27 87 825 0675) to schedule an appointment before 30 April 2015, while allowing enough time to get supporting files. Rescheduling will simply be permitted under exceptional conditions

At the appointment applicants should submit their application in person and digital photo and a digital finger scan will probably be shot.

Applicants must really have a clean police record but, according to Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete. They are not going to have to get a police clearance certificate themselves. VFS Global submits them to the South African Police Service for clearance and will compile a listing of names.

A ZSP permit is not going to be automatically issued as the application will be adjudicating by the Department of Home Affairs.

(VFS warns they are experiencing high call volumes and requested that applicants consult with their Frequently Asked Questions page.)

Attorneys for Human Rights (LHR) are accessible to help and inform applicants.

THE NEW ZSPZimbabwean Special Permit

On 12 August 2014, the Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Malusi Gigaba, MP, introduced the fresh Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (“ZSP“).


The old dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (“DZP“) will officially close on 31 December 2014. The expiry date of allDZPpermits which expire before 31 December 2014 is delayed until 31 December 2014. The expiry date ofDZPpermits which expire after 31 December 2014 is being brought forward to 31 December 2014.

DZPpermit holders who want to stay in South Africa after the expiry of their licenses can reapply for theZSP.”


V A valid Zimbabwean passport

v Proof of employment/evidence of business registration/proof of enrollment from a learning institution.

Vfs centers are the following designated:

v Durban: 91-123 Cowey Road, Essenwood

V Cape Town: CCMA House Whole Second FloorDarling Street

v Port Elizabeth: Office 7C, 1st Floor Moffet on Chief, Cnr 17th Ave and Main Road, Walmer

v Johannesburg: The Link, Old Pretoria Road, Halfway House Midrand (Entry Via James Crescent/Old Pretoria Road)

v Rustenburg: Von Wielligh 26, Bo Dorp; Kimberly: Unit 3, Building 2, Agri Office Park, N12

V Polokwane: 45 Nikkel Street, Industrial

v Nelspruit: Office 5F, Nedbank building, 30 Brown street

v George: Unit 5, Royal Eagle, 5 Progress Street

v Bloemfontein: Suite 4, The Park, 14 Reid Street, Westdene




Please wait...