The Department of Home Affairs has launched a crackdown on illegal South African passport holders intending to enter or leave the country through the Beitbridge border post.
Limpopo Mirror reported that the operation, which started on New Year’s Day, mainly targets Zimbabweans who are in possession of South African travel documents after having allegedly acquired national IDs fraudulently.
An official at the Home Affairs department at Beitbridge, who declined to be named, confirmed the ongoing blitz to Limpopo Mirror.
“There is nothing new about the exercise; it is a just routine operation that Home Affairs conducts every year, especially after the festive season, to flush out foreigners who fraudulently acquired South African passports. There is a special team which was deployed to Beitbridge by our head office to conduct the exercise,” said the official.
Some Zimbabweans using fraudulently acquired South African passports were turned away on Sunday and their travel documents were also seized.
All South African passport holders entering the country from Zimbabwe are reportedly going through a rigorous process of interrogation on presenting their documents to immigration officials.
One of the affected Zimbabweans using a South African passport said that when he arrived at the immigration counters, a female official started questioning him.
“She then took my passport and gave me a form to complete, saying she doubted whether I was a genuine South African. I was ordered to go back to Zimbabwe.”
Usually during this time of the year, Beitbridge Border Post handles a huge volume of southbound traffic and an increase in the number of travellers entering South Africa from Zimbabwe. Most of the travellers are Zimbabweans based in South Africa, who will be returning to work after spending the Christmas holiday at home with their families.
A senior Zimbabwean immigration officer at Beitbridge also confirmed the latest development, saying a number of Zimbabwean using South Africa passports were repossessed of their travel documents and turned away.
“We received reports that some Zimbabweans using fraudulently acquired South African passports were turned away by SA Home Affairs officials and their passports were also seized, while some were given forms to complete, pending further investigations into the authenticity of their citizenship,” said the official.
Limpopo Mirror also established that some Zimbabweans were now reluctant to present their SA passports to Home Affairs officials and are allegedly opting to either bribe police manning the exit gate or use undesignated entry points along the Limpopo River to avoid trouble.
The head of immigration services at Beitbridge (Zimbabwe), Mr Notius Tarisai, said they had been recording a sharp increase in the number of travellers on the departure side, compared to the entry section, since last week.
He also attributed the increase to the last-hour rush by some Zimbabweans who were trying to beat the 31 December deadline for the application of permits under the new Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZPS) programme. ZPS replaced the old Dispensation for Zimbabwean Permits (DZP), which started in May 2009 and expired on 31 December last year.
Under the DZP, Zimbabwean permit holders were allowed to re-apply for the new ZPS permits as long as they had a valid passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clean criminal record.
South Africa suspended the deportation of undocumented Zimbabweans in May 2009 and later introduced a special dispensation, during which Zimbabweans were given an opportunity to regularise their stay in South Africa by applying for work, business and study permits. It is estimated that there are about two million Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
Out of about 245 000 Zimbabweans who were eligible to apply for permits under ZPS, 207 802 met the deadline and the remaining 37 198 face deportation.
Source: Limpopo Mirror