Thousands Fail To Beat Deadline For Permits

JOHANNESBURG,-The Department of Home Affairs in South Africa says 230 000 applications for work and study permits were received from Zimbabwean immigrants who submitted their papers at 42 regional offices by the close of business on December 31, the deadline to regularise their stay in the country.\r\n

Those who did not submit their papers by December 31 face massive deportations towards the end of January. Minister Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma is defiant and has vowed there will be no extention for those who failed to register with the department.

When Radio Vop visited the busy Home Affairs offices along Harrison Street on Friday evening, there were about 200 Zimbabweans still trying to persuade the officials to accept their papers.

Two officials came out and told them to go back because they had failed to beat the deadline. The Zimbabweans were defiant and refused to leave. Police who were outside the building were called in to remove them.

“ You failed to submit your papers when there was enough time for you to do so. Enjoy your New Year holiday because after that we will deport you back to Zimbabwe, ” one of the policemen told the Zimbabweans.

As the unfriendly policeman was busy threatening the immigrants with deportation, a senior Home Affairs official emerged from the building and asked those with ready forms to go in and submit their papers. A few minutes later another official appeared too and instructed the security guard to allow even those without forms to go in and collect foirms.

The desperate Zimbabweans quickly filled in their forms and submitted them.

“ I am so happy that at last I have submitted my forms.I thought that was the end of me here in South Africa, ” said school teacher Mlungisi Ncube. The officials allowed only 80 to go inside and fill in the forms and submit them. The rest were told to back and wait for deportation.

Authorities say they have so far received more than 330 000 applications since the Zimbabwe Dispensation Project began in September last year.

In Cape Town at least more than 800 Zimbabweans finalised their documentation as early as lunchtime on Friday last week.

The offices in Wynberg, Paarl and George saw more than 3000 Zimbabweans submitting their papers between Thursday and Friday.

Officials increased personnel in order to cope with the large number of Zimbabweans who turned up at the last minute. The department says of the more than 200 000 applications received so far 38 000 had been approved while 10 000 were rejected.

Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni says deportation is not something of tomorrow – once the process is closed the law of the country will be implemented. "However we need to stress the fact that if there’s somebody who did not take this opportunity given to them – come the time when the process is closed – those people will face the might of our immigration laws".

Meanwhile, a Zimbabwean national was arrested outside the Home Affairs office in Pretoria for producing and selling fake letters of appointment. The man was also allegedly found in possession of R25 000, earned from the sale of those documents. Although deportation is not yet on the cards law-breakers will not be left unpunished. -Radio VOP