LAST week we dealt with the historical background of the Zimbabwe Documentation Project and I must add that, when l wrote the first piece, l did not know that it would generate so much interest from the public.
In February 2009, Zimbabwean agreed on an inclusivee government following the disputed 2008 elections.
The three political parties represented in the Zimbabwean parliament, which were namely ZANU (PF), MDC-T and MDC had signed the Global Political Agreement in Harare on the 15th September 2008 and one would have expected that Zimbabweans in the Diaspora, particularly in South Africa would go back home, but that turned out not to be the case .
Meanwhile globally, the world was caught up in what was called the “war on terror ” led by the America and her friends following the 9/11 attacks.
South Africa came under the spotlight from the international community because of its easily accessible documents by non citizens, which made it easy for a non citizen to get a South African passport and travel abroad. This posed a threat as terrorist groups could easily get SA passports to travel abroad and commit acts of terrorism as “South Africans”.
At the same time, Zimbabweans who had stayed in South Africa and who had acquired South African documents, used South African passports to travel to Britain and other destinations in search of greener pastures. These Zimbabweans would board a plane, say at OR International airport as “South Africans ” who did not need a visa at the time and then revert back to being a Zimbabwean upon arrival and seek asylum.
British immigration officers were initially puzzled on how Zimbabweans “without” passports could actually board a plane in the first place. and following further investigations, the international community put pressure on the South African government to stop its documents from being abused by non citizens, arguing that this had become a threat to international security.
The British government also responded to this, by introducing a visitors visa to South African passports holders as a security measure resulting in diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
On the home front, during every holiday, “South Africans” preferred Zimbabwe as their holiday destination despite it being politically volatile, the 2008 Cholera outbreak, a collapsing economy etc.
It became strange that “South Africans” would flock to Zimbabwe instead of Botswana, Namibia and other stable countries in the region.
In January 2010, the South African department of Home Affairs then targeted Beitbridge border post. where immigration officials would confiscate a South African passport from a traveller and issue them with a letter for them to continue with their trip to Zimbabwe.
The traveller would be asked to go to the Home Affairs Head Office in Pretoria with documents proving that they were indeed South Africans.
To prove this the “visitors” needed to submit their birth card, baptism certificate, birth certificate, letter from a traditional leader stating that the person was born in that community, affidavits from parents, letter from a previous school attended lead to the confiscation of plus or minus 5 000 passports from these “South Africans”.
I was in Bulawayo at the time, in February 2010, when I received desperate calls, from mainly MDC members working in Mzansi who had had their South African passports confiscated.
I had to cut short my holiday , went back to Johannesburg immediately where me and the then SA MDC provincial secretary Cde Khumbulani Moyo, held an urgent meeting with the Director of immigration Jackie Mackay and the head of border controls Mr Matthews .
The two officials explained to us the reasons why for embarking on such a campaign as l have explained above.
But we then told them that there was no way that the said travellers could submit the required documents to prove that they were South Africans. We told them the of how Zimbabweans, mainly from Matebeleland and Midlands acquired South African documents as l explained in my first article last week.
We also asked the two officials to raise this with the then Minister of Home Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini -Zuma, leading to a one- on- one meeting with Dlamini -Zuma.
Meanwhile, some Zimbabweans who had gone to the Head Office in Pretoria to prove that they were South Africans were arrested , charged with fraud, and after appearing in court were fined R3 000 or 3 months imprisonment. T
hose who paid the fines were sent to Lindela for deportation and those who could not raise the money were expected to serve their prison sentence and then face deportation.
What was particularly sad, was that kids born in South Africa were caught up in this.
Together with Lizwe Gwebu whom l worked with at the MDC office, we attended a number of court cases in Pretoria and also visited those that were now in Lindela, meanwhile we were busy negotiating with the Department of Home Affairs to stop the court cases and release those that were arrested.
The South African government finally agreed and declared an amnesty in 2010 to all those Zimbabweans who had acquired South African documents in exchange to four year permits known as DZP.
NB : Next week we will deal with the DZP application process.
Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Community In South Africa.
Email : email@example.com, Cell whatsapp 083 340 1000
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