Refugee rights group, People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), has lashed out at the Zimbabwean government for shutting down its consulate offices across South Africa, at what it considers a crucial time for Zimbabwean nationals living in their neighbouring country. More than 100,000 Zimbabweans were dependent on the Zimbabwean authorities to issue them with passports, which would be a step closer to legalising their stay in South Africa.
Last year all Zimbabweans who were “illegally” living in South Africa were required to apply for work or study permits. The South African Home Affairs department set a deadline of 30 June 2011 for all applications of passports and permits to be processed.
According to Passop project co-ordinator, Anthony Muteti, the consulate issued a statement that they would be closing their offices for the coming months as the “Consul General’s schedule is overcommitted for the whole duration of the documentation exercise”.
Zimbabweans had since not heard a word from the officials about when their passports, for which they had to pay R750, would be issued. “There are a lot of Zimbabweans waiting for the passports and they keep trying to get information from the consulate,” said Muteti.
“What is really making it difficult is that the telephone numbers that they left, especially in Cape Town, only rings and no one takes it and people are beginning to believe they were robbed of their money. Now they are in the dark as to where that money went and how they are going to get their passports. There is no information on that and it’s really turning into a sham.”
Muteti said the migrants battled to get their hands on that amount of money for the passport, with some even having to borrow. Home Affairs Minister, Nksozana Dlamini-Zuma, was scheduled to visit her counterparts in Zimbabwe to discuss the issue of the passports.
“We believe the only solution that is there is to kind of pressure the Zimbabwean government to supply the passports … we believe she’s [Dlamini-Zuma] going to try and find a solution because it’s now becoming a South African problem. We believe her going there is a way of trying to find an amicable solution to the problem.”
Muteti said it was difficult to understand the actions of the Zimbabwean authorities, whom he suspected had a hidden agenda. He believes issuing the passports would relieve Zimbabwe and their economy would subsequently start strengthening once Zimbabweans were able to find stable jobs.
“Suppose all the permit applicants would return back to Zimbabwe, what would the government give them?” questioned Muteti.
“They don’t have the resources to give these people work, they don’t have the infrastrucutre, they don’t have anything. It’s ridiculous that they are failing to see the relief they would have enjoyed if they would have to provide the passports for Zimbabweans so that they can get permits here. Then they would earn money and in turn send some home and that would actually have helped rebuild the economy.”