THE current ongoing documentation program is fraught with so many problems that thousands of Zimbabweans may not Â have their stay reguarised, says the Southern African Institute for Migration Affairs(SAWIMA), a South African based Zimbabwean NGO.
SAWIMA director and founder Joyce Dube, says that until the third week of October only about Â 195 000 out of the 250 000 holders of the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project had managed to successfully apply online, for interviews which are expected to startÂ this month.
â€œOur people are experiencing difficulties in applying online. A lot of people are facing problems, from actually simply being able to get access to the internet to howÂ to Â apply online,â€ says Dube.
â€œAs stakeholders we should have held workshops on how to apply online but the problem is widespread,â€ she adds.
â€œAnother guy told me Â he didnâ€™t even have an email address and yet Â the centres are sending confirmation letters through email and so if you donâ€™t even an email address thatâ€™s a problem right there,â€ says Dube.
â€œSometimes when some people try toÂ apply they canâ€™t find theirÂ names yet they have the old permits ,â€ says Dube,
The program isÂ to extendÂ the legal stay Â of the Dispensation for Zimbabweans permit holdersÂ by allowing them Â to apply for an extension of their stay in the country for another three years to December 2017 under Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP).
There are Â ZSP centres in Midrand, Gauteng; Cape Town, Western Cape; Polokwane, Limpopo; and Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, George, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, and Rustenburg.
â€œThe other complaint we have been receiving from Zimbabweans is that one if you make a mistake when you send the application Â and there is not means of getting it back. And even if you phone these centres, no one answers the phone though we hear this problem has somehow improved since we complained to the department of Home Affairs, says Dube.
â€œPeople areÂ panickingÂ because they canâ€™t retrieve their forms, if they make mistakes. Some them have permits but when they are trying to submit their formsÂ online that they are being told they areÂ not in the system, yet they have the(old) permits and there is noÂ human voice that they can ask to fix these problems, â€œ says Dube.
Initially the department of Home Affairs said it had deployed 120 people to process applications, for the Zimbabweans who were issued with four year work permits in 2010.
Another problem, says Dube is that mostÂ ZimbabweansÂ are Â not even aware of the extension given by the SA government.
â€œ As stakeholders we have tried our best to publicise the program but we keep getting calls from people who are asking us what they should do when their permits expire. I think all stakeholders should hold extensive nationwide progammes Â using all types of media to make people aware that there is a reprieve. As Zimbabweans it is moreso Â because we feel the pain,â€ she says Dube adding that they are trying raise awareness of the program and have held two mass meetings, Â in Hillbrow (Johannesburg)Â to conscientise Zimbabweans.
â€œBut I do admit, that more needs to be done since the SA government is saying that there will be no extension,â€ which means that a lot of people will be left out,â€ she warns.
â€œThe NGOâ€™s are trying their best but another problem is that people expect to pay for this(outside the R870) even fingerprinting, even people from Malawi want these permits and are going for fingerprints but these things wonâ€™t work becauseÂ VSF will be doing their own fingerprinting,â€ she explains.
Dube warns against people who claim to have direct numbers to there is a lot going on.
â€œOur people are so used of paying bribes, for simple things, yet everything is for free except the R870 charged for the application.â€
Dube adds that another major hurdle that most Zimbabweans are facing is that they even though someÂ peopleÂ are genuinely employed, their employers are refusing to writing letters confirming their employment .
â€œI have one girl here and another young man their employers are refusing, I donâ€™t know why, maybe their company owes SARS I donâ€™t know. But if that person is working for you must people go to the company next door, I think something must be done about these employers,â€ says Dube.
With interviews beginning November, Dube is worried that applicants might be prejudiced if they cannot produce proof of employment and have valid passports.
In the next phase of the application process, which will entail verbal interviews, Dube urges Zimbabweans to have valid passports, to renew their passports and try by all means
â€œSome of our people are not serious, they should go to the consulate and apply for a passport, but even to be legally in SA, just have a valid passport, even if your old passport and a receipt to show that you have at least applied Â makes your case stronger.â€
Meanwhile Dube warns that because of the uncertain political environment brought about the infighting in the ruling Zanu-PF party Â and the declining economy, more and more people are coming to SA.
â€œThe funny part is that as more and more Â people are starting to come(to SA) and at Â the Â same time the SA government is beginning to tighten its laws and secure its borders. But now what is happening now we are going back to 2008 because of the fight between these two iron ladies.â€
â€˜â€™The South African told us they are tightening their laws and people are going to be arrested but more and more people are coming and this is the reason why weÂ asked for this dispensation in the first place.â€
For those who need help or advise for their applications or Â more information on how the process works, contact Joyce Dube on 27(0) 798739021 or write her an email at Sawimas@gmail.com.