Friday 31 December 2010 marks the final day of application for work, study and business permits for Zimbabweans based in South Africa, for many the festive period was the most hectic shuttling between cities and towns in South Africa in order to meet the deadline. At midnight on the 31st there will not be much pomp and fanfare associated with a New Year, Yeoville, Hillbrow and Berea will most likely put a subdued celebration into the New Year, there will not be much beer guzzling or throwing old furniture onto the street. The churches should brace for a higher turnout as many would seek solace in the arms of the Almighty.
Official sources within the South African Home Affairs put the number of applications received as at 22 December 2010 at about 130,000. Though there is much debate regarding the number of Zimbabweans in South Africa, the generally accepted range is between 2 – 3.5 million and according to Zimbabwe’s registrar general about 1.5 million of these do not have travel documents. This means a lot of Zimbabweans did not respond to the call to regularise their stay with a response rate of less than 10% however by the first week of 2011 we will be able to decipher how many exactly managed to apply. There is also reluctance by those who hold SA identity documents to surrender these in exchange for work permits, just how many of these make up the Zimbabwe population in South Africa cannot be established. Many were beneficiaries of RDP low cost housing and other benefits afforded to the citizens of South Africa only. It remains to be seen how the South African government will establish those holding such fraudulent documents, perhaps the little known Movement Control System developed by SARS will be used, and for example people with identity documents bearing South Africa as the place of birth who regularly make trips to Zimbabwe at certain intervals will be flagged. There is also talk of a new identity system for every South African along the biometric lines hoping to nab many of such during this process. Whatever the outcome; a lot of Zimbabweans face a grim future in South Africa.
It can also be noticed the South African department of Home Affairs did their best to regularize as many Zimbabweans as possible even relaxing the requirements to the extent that all one needs is a Zimbabwean birth certificate in order to apply for a visa, holidays were also cut short to improve the speed of processing. As at 28 December 2010 I saw no less than 30 officers coming to serve the crowds that thronged the Home Affairs offices along Market Street, they carried their duties with urgency and as early as 07:30am they were taking in people to assist. So when the Minister of South Africa Home Affairs says there will not be an extension it is on the back of this effort put. There is also the opportunity cost of deploying resources to assist with this project; it is not only Zimbabweans whom the Home Affairs offices need to assist.
|Zimbabweans queuing at Home Affairs Office along Harrison St, Johannesburg on the last day of submitting applications for visa permits|
About 20km away in Klopperpark is where Zimbabweans applying for passports are gathering, with the deadline fast approaching; queues as long as 2km formed; a massive number for the under resourced office. The service cannot be compared to the South African counterparts who are exercising diligence. The Zimbabwean Home Affairs is known for their slow service and an indifferent attitude to the plight of its citizens; it comes as no surprise that not more than 50,000 passport applications have been processed since the start of the program. Earlier in December the Zimbabwe Ministers of Home Affairs had made a visit to assess the situation; it is then that the South African government offered their Zimbabwean counterparts a printing press than can print 4000 passports per hour after noticing that Zimbabwe was failing to cope. Minister Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone were then to consider this offer and get back to the South Africa government.
We were initially made to believe the Zimbabwe cabinet has gone for a Christmas break and cannot deliberate on the issue this despite the fact that the offer was extended early in December 2010; there is also the line that Tobaiwa Mudede is yet to submit a report. To add insult to injury, Kembo Mohadi is quoted as saying he is on leave and therefore Theresa Makone cannot move without him. These are the same people who took a swipe at Zimbabweans when they visited South Africa early in December with Theresa Makone saying, “I am not going to engage in gutter fighting because I am an intellectual”. So with all the intellect what did she do to expedite the situation regarding Tobaiwa Mudede. News from other sources say the offer was turned down due to security reasons, this is but a flimsy excuse because the South African government had asked the Zimbabwean government to use the printer only, the paper, passport booklets, software; manpower was going to be provided by the Zimbabwean government. It’s a case of one taking a computer with data to a neighbour’s house, connect the computer to the printer, do the print outs, disconnect your computer; take your printed material then go. Now how does security come into the picture here? Even if the printer is so hi-tech, it only manages output fed through a computer command, the Systems Administrator can be able to clear all history of print jobs leaving no trace whatsoever. If it is that the offer was indeed turned down, who made that decision since cabinet was not involved. Was it Tobaiwa Mudede’s unilateral decision, or was the cabinet by-passed. There are half truths and lies in all this; from people who are relying on the diaspora community for income flows.
With regards to ZANU-PF it’s a known fact that they would not want Zimbabweans freely moving back to Zimbabwe to vote in elections so any means to disenfranchise them would be pursued. Tobaiwa Mudede perhaps dragged his feet to make sure this comes to pass. Zimbabweans go through a torrid time in South Africa, many left their families without a passport to seek a better life but many have found themselves working in conditions of exploitation because of lack of documentation; now here we are with politicians playing politics with people’s livelihood. Perhaps another decision will be made in the New Year to use the printer; this will help those who have already applied. What of those who could not endure the long queues at the consulate, those who had to choose between retaining their jobs and spending days at the queue. Spare a thought for that young girl who is forced to resort to prostitution and eventually die of AIDS, all because she could not access a basic document such as a passport, will these people’s blood not be on your hands Minister Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone? You are Civil Servants, put there to serve the people but you have a warped grasp of your duties, the officious display you made when visiting South Africa tells a lot, take a leaf from Dr. Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, she has much to brag about but sacrificed a lot to help your own people, history will judge you harshly, enjoy your holidays and rejoice in the misery of those who put you where you are. One day the people will be free and you will stand before them to answer for these matters.