ABOUT 40 000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa are facing deportation after the country’s department of Home Affairs announced Wednesday that it had closed the Special Permit application process.
“The closure of the Zimbabwean special permit application process [is] by end of business today, 31 December,” the department said in a statement.
As of Tuesday, 207 802 applications had been received, while 198 840 appointments had been booked through VFS, a private company to which home affairs had outsourced certain visa and permit processes.
A total of 245 000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa were eligible to apply for the new permit.
It is feared that about 40 000 failed to meet the deadline for one reason or another.
The department said that besides the close of applications for Zimbabwean special permits, permits issued under an older system, the Dispensation for Zimbabwean Project (ZSP) also expired on Wednesday – no matter their original expiry date.
Last month, the department announced it would allow people with the expired older permits to still use these documents to travel in and out of South Africa during the festive season until 31 December.
Zimbabweans in the country illegally were granted an opportunity from 2009 to legalise their stay via the permit, due to the political and socio-economic conditions in that country.
Previously, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said all the new permits should be issued by the end of April next year. They would be valid until the end of 2017.
A similar permit process for the Basotho, Mozambicans, and other Southern African Development Community nationals is expected to be implemented in future.
Gigaba implied that those who did not apply as of December 31 were going to be deported.
“According to our law, any foreigner staying here without proper documentation must be deported. But I hope all of those eligible to do so have applied and they will get their permits otherwise, it would be tough luck,” he said.
“We wish to extend our gratitude to all eligible Zimbabweans who participated in this process as well as to VFS who played an integral role in assisting the Department of Home Affairs in reaching this milestone,” Gigaba said.