JOHANNESBURG — Four years ago, the South African government granted amnesty to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans -- who had fled to that country seeking asylum from political violence at home. But now, the Pretoria government is tightening its immigration laws -- a move which could make it difficult for many Zimbabweans to remain.
Turmoil in Zimbabwe over the years has forced huge numbers of Zimbabweans -- to flee into neighboring South Africa.
Some officials estimate that two million Zimbabweans now live in the country.
But life here has not been easy. Those who fled political violence have to line up for days -- sometimes even at night -- to apply for asylum.
Many of these immigrants say tough new immigration laws have made their lives difficult.
Under the new laws announced in May, some 300,000 Zimbabweans who were given amnesty permits are now required to return home to extend their visa.
Zimbabwean immigrant Dorcas Mero -- who is now bedridden after a serious road accident --said the new law has brought her life to a standstill. “I’m worried and I’m afraid as well, if they deport me in this situation, I’m afraid,” she said.
Her husband, Gift Nhidza, who was injured in the same accident, is in a similar predicament. “I’m very bitter about these new laws and I think the new minister of Home Affairs should revisit and engage the people about their problems,” he added.
Bishop Paul Verryn, of the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, compares the new immigration laws to those from South Africa's discriminatory past. "It feels as if we are dealing with the same kind of complications as we dealt with, with the past laws in the old apartheid era,” he explained.
These immigrants say their fate is now in the hands of the South African government.