Source: Zimbos panic as permit deadline approaches – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 12, 2017
JOHANNESBURG — Following months of uncertainty surrounding their stay in South Africa, thousands of Zimbabweans are now fretting over bank threats to freeze their accounts this month-end when their permits expire.
Some 250 000 holders of the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP), who are among millions who have fled economic and political crises to South Africa, are in panic mode because none of the new permits will be issued by December 31.
The Department of Home Affairs recently extended the deadline for applications to the end of January next year to pave the way for the issuing of the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).
As the expiry of the current permits draws near, some South African banks have alerted Zimbabwean account holders to the possibility of freezing their accounts pending the issuance of new permits.
Hordes of Zimbabwean clients banking with Absa, Capitec, First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank confirmed receiving notifications to renew their permits lest they face their accounts being frozen.
“I have been warned to bring new documents before the December 31 expiry date. After receiving this message, I promptly rushed to the bank hall to verify. Officials told me they will freeze it if no permit is received,” said Mlungisi Ndebele of Alexandra.
A Zimbabwean client with the same bank raised similar concerns.
“Now, if banks freeze our accounts, they would have skinned us alive. I have kept all the money for my three-year savings with the intention to purchase a car and a house,” Ruzvidzo Takawira of Bramley, Jo’burg, said.
Advocate Gabriel Shumba, executive director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), said freezing or suspension of ZSP permit holders’ accounts on December 31 would be “highly regrettable”.
“It is insensitive for banks to freeze accounts pending the adjudication process,” Shumba said.
He said such action would be “highly provocative”, arguing the banks in question were usually too happy to entice this vulnerable group of the Zimbabwean populace.
Ngqabutho Mabhena, chairperson of Zimbabweans Living in South Africa, said they had engaged the Department of Home Affairs, which he said pledged to address the issue with the banks.
He called on banks to give clients a grace period of up to January31 when applications for permits close.
“We will continue to engage with the banks through the Department of Home Affairs,” Mabhena assured.
Luke Dzipange Zunga, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Global Forum, said the organisation was aware that some of its members had received the “threatening notifications” from banks.
He, however, pointed out that some ministerial changes and the suspension and reinstatement of Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni had affected the status of the Zimbabwean permit holders.
Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said his department had notified banks and companies that employed holders of ZSPs to continue accepting them as the department processed the ZEP permits.
“Companies, including banks, have been notified that applicants who are in possession of ZSPs expiring on December 31 must be allowed to continue to transact provided they submit proof of application for a mainstream visa or a ZEP. Proof can be a VFS receipt or proof of payment,” Mokgola said.
Matthew Hunter of Absa said the financial institution would not freeze or suspend accounts of those holding the ZSP, provided they had proof of renewal of permit application.