Zimbabweans fear deportation as Home Affairs bungles special permit process

| Bernard Chiguvare
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. No one in his department responded to GroundUp’s requests for comment. Photo by Thembela Ntongana.

The immigrant rights group People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) is concerned that hundreds of Zimbabweans are being told to leave South Africa imminently.

PASSOP is dealing with over 220 rejections for Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permits (ZSPs). As Africa Check explains:

The Zimbabwean Special Dispensation permit (ZSP) is the successor to a permit issued as part of the Home Affairs department’s … Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (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 intended to provide an amnesty to Zimbabweans who had been using fraudulent 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 more than a decade.

The ZSP process began in October last year. GroundUp has previously reported on delays and dissatisfaction with the process.

According to Bernard Toyambi who heads a team of paralegals at PASSOP, “We started receiving rejections in February, 2015. The pile of rejections is getting bigger daily. So far we have around 222 rejections.”

According to PASSOP the reasons for rejections include Home Affairs saying that applicants have not provided proof of employment or employment contracts, failing to include their previous permit in their applications or not providing proof of business registration or trade licenses. In some cases Home Affairs has picked up that applicants have criminal records. One obscure reason given for rejection is “negative fingerprint” which PASSOP describes as “confusing”.

At the end of every rejected application letter there is a note. “You are to leave the country within ten days.”

“This is worrying,” says Toyambi. “Home Affairs give ten days without giving them the right to appeal. In terms of the Constitution everyone has the right to appeal when one feels one is not satisfied with a decision.”

There is additional confusion because a Home Affairs employee, Gerson Muti, apparently told legal representatives of some of the rejected applicants, “Please ignore the rejection letter because all rejections are going to be reviewed even if the person did not lodge the appeal. We are just waiting for our IT section to finish developing the system so that we can start reviewing.”

Benhilda Masarirambi is a domestic worker in Cape Town. Her case exemplifies the bureaucratic difficulties applicants are experiencing. Her application was rejected because Home Affairs said she did not have the previous permit. She indeed lost her permit in a car accident. However, she then obtained proof from Home Affairs that she had a permit. GroundUp has seen official documentation that records her permit number.

Since receiving the rejection letter, she has been living in perpetual fear of being deported. She is also worried she will lose her job.

PASSOP is trying to assist the rejected applicants to appeal to Home Affairs. Toyambi says Home Affairs’ review of the rejections could start anytime from next month. He says, “We are not very sure how we could assist those whose applications were rejected due to having criminal records. However we still ask them to go for police clearance but if proven guilty we are not in a position to assist.” Because of the costs involved in appealing PASSOP asks applicants to donate R100 to cover processing (the organisation emphasises this just covers their costs). However those rejected because of criminal records are asked to pay R200 because of additional paperwork involved.

Despite numerous attempts, GroundUp has not been able to get a response from Home Affairs. Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete has not responded to our emails. After several telephone calls an official by the name of Winnie told GroundUp that Tshwete was out the country and that we should email another spokesperson Thabo Mokgola. We also spoke to him on the phone. He promised a response by 3pm on 30 July, but failed to provide one. We also managed to get hold of Gerson Muti but he said he does not speak to the media.

TOPICS:  Immigration

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