HOME Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has reiterated his stance that, Zimbabwe Special Permits will not be renewed, and that Zimbabweans on that permit arrangement have to seek other avenues to regularise their stay in South Africa, during a speech at an interactive session on the Green Paper on International Migration, that was held in Johannesburg today.
In a statement issued after the meeting this afternoon the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum says despite condemning Xenophobia and encouraging living harmoniously with citizens from other countries, Gigaba put his foot down, saying that ZSP will not be renewed, despite the Zimbabwe Consulate insisting that negotiations were ongoing.
“We are greatly disappointed that position is contrary to what the Zimbabwe Consulate had indicated to us a few weeks ago, namely, that this is not a closed chapter as discussions are still taking place,” says ZEF chairperson Advocate Gabriel Shumba who attended today’s briefing with many other civil society organisations.
Last week www.zimsinsa.com reported that Gigaba had urged the 250 000 Zimbabweans under the dispensation programme to seek other options.
But Shumba says, that the VFS is refusing submissions of applications from Zimbabweans who are seeking alternatives.
“The biggest challenge is that the practicalities of such migration from ZSP to other permits have not been articulated and VFS is refusing submissions of applications from Zimbabweans who want to opt for other permits,” adds Shumba who also complained to ZimsInSA.com that the permit process is taking too long while people’s lives are left in limbo.
“We caution the Department not to pay lip service to efficiency and are worried that even inquiries on the status of permits applied are ordinarily ignored,” Shumba told this reporter.
Shumba also expressed reservations at the Department of Home Affairs’s proposal to set up asylum processing centres at ports of entry, as opposed to inside the country.
“This has a potential for rights violations that would be in conflict with the noble aims of the proposed policy changes. Asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution from countries such as Zimbabwe may easily become targets of renditions and even executions in such centres,” says Shumba adding that this would also promote corruption and Xenophobia.
“Secondly, these centres would only act as festering wounds for corruption, exploitation and even targeting by xenophobic elements, and are contrary to the integration objectives of the policy. All asylum applicants need access to basic and legal services, which will be difficult if processing is done at ports of entry, instead of within the country as previously,” says Shumba who also expressed disquiet on the proposed introduction of med that the policy changes make it a conditio sine qua non for a refugee to have skills before s/he can be granted permanent residence in the country.
“This requirement, we submit with respect, is unnecessary and violates the rights of refugees whose contribution to South Africa may not be purely economic but cultural,” add Shumba, who is a refugee himself in South Africa.
However Shumba commended Gigaba for interacting with civic groups, and his ministry’s continued engagement with various stakeholders on the thorny issue of international migration.
“In particular, ZEF is heartened to note that Gigaba, remains committed to principles of Ubuntu as evident in his address today.”
Among some of the notable nuggets from the Minister’s speech , which we welcome as ZEF are that South Africa is now embarking on a paradigm shift that seeks to move away from a narrow focus on immigration towards an international migration policy that embraces moral, human rights, security, opportunity and developmental implications of immigration, especially within the region,” says Shumba, who adds that Gigaba emphasized the need for social cohesion and integration of foreign migrants, and condemned xenophobia.
Says Gigaba: “We must expand our narrow conception of who is a South African. This must be done taking cognizance of our Africanness, mindful of how immigrants add economic value to South Africa and how they deep cultural diversity in the country.
Shumba also urged Gigaba to investigate the Overstay Appeals Department which has been practically dysfunctional with appeals just being ignored and not even an acknowledgement being received after lodgement.
“ZEF will continue to engage the Department of Home Affairs and the Zimbabwean Consulate on some of the concerns raised today,”adds Shumba. – Patience Rusere