via SA permits breakthrough – Southern Eye 4 June 2014 by Nqobile Bhebhe
ZIMBABWEANS in South Africa have engaged the ruling tripartite alliance, Africa National Congress (ANC)’s international relations department and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and South African Communist Party (SACP) over the controversial new permit regime.
Last week, the South African Home Affairs department introduced new stringent immigration regulations that would see Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals who overstay being banned from entering the neighbouring country as it tightens its immigration regulations.
All along, those who overstayed were allowed to re-enter South Africa and apply for permits and visas after being made to pay fines.
Those who overstay their allocated time in South Africa would be banned for a period ranging from one to five years. Notices have been posted on the South African side of the Beitbridge border post informing those entering and leaving that country of the new changes.
First-time offenders who overstay for less than 30 days would be banned from entering South Africa for one year, while second-time offenders who overstay by the same period would get a two-year ban and those that overstay for a period exceeding 30 days are banned for five years.
Ngqabutho Mabhena, who was actively involved in the special permits negotiations four years ago, said talks with political parties in South Africa have begun.
“I met the ANC international relations department this afternoon (yesterday) in an informal arrangement and compared notes on the permits issue. The idea was to get the ANC to appreciate our side of the matter before engaging the Home Affair department,” Mabhena said.
“The ANC officials showed concern over the issue and committed themselves to take the matter further within their set up with urgency.
“We have about 266 000 Zimbabweans who got special amnesty permits four years ago and most of them are domestic workers and some work in restaurants. It would be difficult for them to return to Zimbabwe and apply for the permits. They could lose their jobs,” Mabhena told Southern Eye from his South African base yesterday.
Mabhena also said he held talks with Cosatu secretary for international affairs Bongani Masuku on Monday and the SACP on Sunday.
“Again both parties committed to assist us on the matter,” he said.
Mabhena said formal talks have been tentatively set after June 20.
“As the Zimbabwe community in South Africa, we will soon arrange consultative meetings and prepare ourselves for the formal talks,” he said.
The South African Home Affairs department recently announced that it would soon pronounce modalities of processing expiring work permits for Zimbabweans working in that country.
The permits were issued to Zimbabweans in the 2009 special dispensation process to legalise their stay in South Africa. The permits are set to expire before the end of this year.
South Africa has been introducing a raft of strict measures to regulate foreigners in that country.
Under the new regulations, foreigners would have to travel back to their countries to apply for new permits once they expire.
Foreign nationals now have to prove cohabitation with their South African partners for at least five years before becoming eligible for visas. The previous requirement was just three months. Adults travelling with children have to produce affidavits from parents proving permission for the children to travel.
According to the Home Affairs department, the changes are necessary to curb child trafficking, violations in visa applications, habitual overstaying and to stop foreigners from using fake marriages in order to obtain visas and permits.