Confusion over the renewal and application for South African work permits and other documents has spawned an influx of conmen at the South African Embassy in Harare as thousands flock the embassy in search of documents.
Hundreds of people have been sleeping at embassy over the past week as the officials fail to serve them. Conmen are not only selling queue numbers but also fake application forms to the desperate permit seekers.
A visit to the embassy last week revealed that some young men who were sleeping there together with hundreds of permit seekers and selling queue numbers for at least $10 each. They were also trading some forms that they said were application forms for $5.
Embassy officials said they had been serving about 200 people daily out of the 1,000 a day who have been queuing at the Embassy since last Monday. Last June the South African government tightened its immigration laws and now requires that a person wishing to apply for a work permit or any other document must come in person to the Embassy. The authorities have threatened to deport all Zimbabweans living in that country without proper documentation.
It is estimated that at least three million Zimbabweans stay in South Africa. Out of that number officials say only less than 200,000 had by 31 December 2014 either renewed or applied for the documents to stay in the country.
“I have been sleeping here since last week but failing to get the service because of the pressure of numbers. Corruption is rife here. You find someone who has just arrived getting the permit and leaving us behind,” said a middle-aged man who identified himself as Jabulani. “The corruption is not done by the embassy officials but by young boys who are selling queue numbers”.
“This is my second day now coming here and I am confident that today I will make it. I arrived yesterday at around 9pm and slept here. I have a good number,” said Trymore Mukanhiri, who was trying to sort out his son’s university papers.
Juliet Jonas said: “I have stayed in South Africa for five years and I have come to collect my sister’s daughter who wants to join us there. She is the one whose papers we are sorting out. “It’s true that there is corruption in the issuing of queue numbers because I was approached by some guys. I did not buy because the daughter slept here and I have just arrived this morning to sign for her.”
An embassy official who declined to be named said they were warning people against buying ‘application forms’ and queue numbers. “We are being overwhelmed by the numbers of people seeking permits and other documents but we do not have agents selling application forms or queue numbers.
Anyone who does buy does it at his or her own peril. We are trying our best to serve everyone and it is only that the verification process involved in the processing of the documents is thorough and cumbersome,” he said.
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi could not be reached for comment.
Source: daily news