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Passport applications on hold

Brian Chitemba

THE Zimbabwe government has closed fresh applications for passports by locals seeking to regularise their stay in South Africa, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

Home Affairs officials were deployed to South Africa last year where they have been working with their South African counterparts to process 275 000 applications for passports.

Co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone yesterday could neither confirm nor deny the development.

“I am not really aware of the latest development. I have been trying to get the information from my officials but they are in meetings,” she said.

But exile organisations in South Africa on Wednesday met top Home Affairs officials led by the ministry’s director-general Mkuseli Apleni and the chief director of the Zimbabwe Documentation Project Jacob Mamabolo where the officials announced that new passport applications would not be entertained.

The meeting also focused on ways to deal with problems dogging the registration process such as late processing of passports by the Zimbabwean government.

 According to the Pretoria-based Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), Apleni confirmed that new applications for passports in that country would not be accepted. Apleni also said that deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans would start in August.

“Director-General Apleni reiterated that the interest of the (South African) government was not to deport people but to bring back dignity to Zimbabweans in the country,” said ZEF executive director Gabriel Shumba.

 He said the latest statistics showed 275 622 Zimbabweans in that country applied for work permits across South Africa but many were hampered by the failure of local authorities to produce passports on time.

At the meeting, it was announced that South African Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will next month meet with her Zimbabwean counterparts co-Home Affairs ministers Makone and Kembo Mohadi to discuss issues related to the documentation process. The ministers’ meeting will be prefaced by another between Apleni and the top Zimbabwe embassy officials.

 “South Africa’s open offer to Zimbabwe still stands and if Zimbabwe needs assistance, South Africa will assist in any way that it can,” Apleni told the meeting.

 South Africa last September scrapped a moratorium that allowed Zimbabweans to work in that country and ordered locals to regularise their stay by December 31 but the deadline was moved to the end of March.

 Shumba said: “We once more appeal to the Zimbabwean government to consider this offer as it will assist our people in South Africa.”

 He added there was need for communication with the South African police to ensure that arrests of Zimbabweans do not start before the August date.

“The Department of Education will also be consulted to ensure that schools do not demand permits upfront as has been the case in some learning centres,” said Shumba.

 The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says there are an estimated 1, 5 million Zimbabweans living in South Africa, many of who fled an economic meltdown in the past decade.

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