24 July 2015 – HOME affairs minister Malusi Gigaba has said immigrants would not be declared undesired persons simply because officials at ports of entry granted them unreasonable days to be in South Africa.
“If an immigration official gives you three days, when you have 90 days, you know your rights. Just ignore them. Simply ignore them,” Gigaba told reporters in Pretoria.
“It is not the immigration officer that is going to declare you undesirable. It is the movement control system and that is controlled centrally. The guy standing in front of you, telling you an untruth is in effect ineffective.”
Head of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Nqabutho Mabhena, previously complained that despite South African law stipulating that Zimbabwean travellers had an annual visa-free 90 day-stay, officials often grant unreasonable number of days for the travellers.
“You find that officials do not even ask the traveller but just give three days to a person travelling to Cape Town. When the immigrant gets to Cape Town he or she is already declared an undesired person in terms of the law,” said Mabhena.
“It boils down to the attitude of the particular immigration official. That is not the official position of the South African government, but officials do it at the borders.”
On Friday, launching an anti-corruption blitz, Gigaba said there was “no human intervention” in barring people from entering South Africa.
“On the 91st days, the movement control system will record that you have exceeded your stay in South Africa. The declaration of your undesirability is generated centrally and there is no human intervention in the process. No person is going to say ‘but I had given you three days, why didn’t you leave?’”
“The person who says you have three days to travel to Cape Town is telling you hogwash. Ignore them,” said Gigaba.
At the Bosman station in central Pretoria, where buses arrive from the Southern African Development Community, immigrants said they were at the mercy of immigration officials.
International bus driver Rodrick Mupatsi said in the worst instances, some travellers he brought to South African had been granted a day at the Beitbridge border post to wrap up their business in South Africa.
“That is just a sign that the official wants you to buy a drink. We intervene as drivers and ensure that such moves are reversed. We work closely with the officials. They just want survive,” said the Zimbabwean.
Many immigrants who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, alleged that they had often paid bribes at the ports of entry.
“We collectively hand our money to bus drivers. They are the ones who will get you proper days. I was once given two days at Beitbridge while I was heading to the Northern Cape,” said an old woman.
Some alleged that they have previously been denied entry.
In May, the high court in Pretoria ordered home affairs to pay costs incurred by a Pretoria-based attorney, Eucan Gwanangura, after officials at the Beitbridge border post barred him entry into South Africa on his return from Zimbabwe.
The ruling by Judge Veyelwa Tlapi followed another ruling ordering home affairs to allow Gwanangura into the country.
Gwanangura, a South African permanent resident, filed an urgent application while he was stuck at the Beitbridge border post. He was returning from a funeral in Zimbabwe and had passed through the border just a few days earlier.
In court papers seen by the African News Agency, Gigaba was cited as the respondent.
Judge Tolmay ruled that “the respondent (Gigaba) or alternatively the supervisor of the Immigration Services at Beitbridge border post be ordered to authorise the applicant to enter into the Republic of South Africa forthwith”.
In an affidavit before the court, Gwanangura said he travelled to Zimbabwe on February 1 to attend the funeral of his brother-in-law. His passport was stamped at the South African exit point and Zimbabwe’s entry port. – ANA