Zimbabweans report glitches in permit system

| Thembela Ntongana
Zimbabweans living in South Africa can apply for the new three-year Special Permits, but some say the system doesn’t work.

Zimbabweans were promised in August by the Department of Home Affairs that they could apply for the Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP) from October 1, 2014, but many have been unable to.

The ZSP will allow Zimbabweans living in South Africa to work, conduct business or study for three years, until the end of December 2017.

Applicants must apply online for a permit and submit the required documents, then phone for an appointment for an interview where documents must be submitted and fingerprints taken. Interviews are to be held at 10 ZSP application centres, in Midrand, Cape Town, Polokwane, Durban, George, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit and Rustenburg.

Applications cost R870. Successful applicants will be told when to collect their permits.

The ZSP, announced by Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba on August 12, will only benefit the roughly 245 000 Zimbabweans who already have the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project (DZP).

On 25 September the Minister announced that everything would be ready for applications to be processed through the website from October 1.

Bernard Toyambi, para-legal officer at People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) who has applied for the ZSP on behalf of another person, said the process was not difficult and took him about 10 minutes but some people were unable to access it.

But Unice Runeni, a Zimbabwean living in South Africa, said she had been trying to apply for her son since the October 1 and the system kept sending her an error message.

“We have tried calling the call centre but no one picks up the phone.”

The secretary of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa association, Khumbulani Moyo, said just over 1,000 Zimbabweans had managed to secure appointments.

“All our members meet all the requirements, but the system keeps on giving error messages to some.”

“Another problem that we are facing is that the department promised that there would be staff in its call centre for people to call and set up appointments but it’s not so. People have been calling and no one is picking up the phone,” said Moyo.

He said since the ZSP had to be effective by the end of the year. December holidays are approaching, Zimbabweans who went home would have problems coming back if they did not have a permit before they left.

Another Zimbabwean, Clyde Zondo, who has been trying to apply since October 1, said he had to travel 15 km to town to use the internet and took a day off work, with five colleagues, but still had not been able to apply.

“I was hoping to go home this December to see my family but I don’t know if I am going to be able to. I don’t want to risk not being able to come back to South Africa because I have to work. I am the bread-winner back home,” said Zondo.

Department of Home Affairs spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said more than 5,000 applications had been processed in three days.

“There is no need for people to panic, we still have three more months. It is only after that three months that people can start panicking. I am not saying the system is perfect, but it is working, and it is better than the system that was used in 2009,” he said.

He urged applicants not to call the call centre to ask which documents to bring.

“The call centre is not meant for that; it is meant for people who want to make appointments,” said Tshwete.

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TOPICS:  Immigration

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