News / Africa

Zimbabwean Immigrants in South Africa Seek Work Permits

A woman seeks shade beneath her ID documents as she joins about 200 Zimbabweans in a queue outside the Home Affairs offices in downtown Johannesburg, 6 Oct 2010.
A woman seeks shade beneath her ID documents as she joins about 200 Zimbabweans in a queue outside the Home Affairs offices in downtown Johannesburg, 6 Oct 2010.

Thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa are besieging government offices seeking work permits under a new program announced in September.  The South African government has given the estimated one-million undocumented Zimbabweans in the country until the end of December to legalize their status or face deportation.

It is early morning in downtown Johannesburg and several-hundred Zimbabweans have gathered outside the Home Affairs Department to apply for permits to work legally in the country.  Many have spent the night on the sidewalk in order to be first in line.  

Commercial artist Charles Chawanda stood in line for two days before he received an application form.  He is back today with his completed form, his passport and a letter from his employer. "They just write our names down.  They just write a number on our form so that today they have started to call our numbers again so that they can process our papers," he said.

He says the authorities have promised to send him a text message when his papers are ready, hopefully in 10 days.

South Africa launched this exercise in September (20th).  At the end of December it will end an 18-month moratorium that allowed Zimbabweans without documents to work here for three months at a time without fear of deportation.

Salesperson Tracy Nkonzo has come to apply, but she must wait in line until she can get her name on the list and a number in the queue. "I have been in South Afica for almost four years now and it is a bit tricky when you do not have the necessary papers," she says, "I mean it is not so easy to get a job.  I mean the day-to-day life is very difficult if you do not have anything."

But many Zimbabweans in South Africa do not have passports or even birth certificates.

Thousands of them gather every day outside Zimbabwe's passport office in Johannesburg filling the street and standing in lines that snake around the corner.

An overwhelmed Zimbabwean official passes out deposit slips.  Applicants must pay the $100 fee at a local bank then return with the receipt in order to receive a passport application form.

A shop fitter from Pretoria, Charles Mtetwa, has been coming here for two weeks. "At the present, I am still waiting for my form there," he says, "I must get my form first.  From there I go into this queue to surrender the form there."

During this time he is not being paid.  He fears he may lose his job.

South African officials say they are processing 1,000 applications a day at more than 40 centers across the country.

Electronic technician  Blessing Musi has spent the past three nights here.  He says it takes six weeks to get a passport and then several more weeks for the South African work permit.  He is afraid there is not enough time.

"If do not get it in time it means I am going to lose a job, one.  My family is going to get nothing, and I am going to go home with nothing," Musi said.

University of Johannesburg Professor David Moore says historically Africans have migrated across the continent, driven by politics, economics and war. "In Africa, as a whole, there is this constant migrating of people from these relatively fragile states which are colonial inventions.  It is part of a long-term historical process of intra-continental migration with bursts of nationalism and xenophobia and these sentiments of us versus them," he said.

Moore says many South Africans are sympathetic to the plight of their neighbors.  But he adds that resentment is high against foreigners, especially among the millions of unemployed South Africans who live in shacks without water or sanitation.

"It is harder to be hospitable when you are really poor and you feel that people are taking your jobs and taking your houses and that sort of thing," Moore states.

Migrant activist Godfrey Phiri of the Peace Action group says the program will allow some Zimbabweans to legalize their stay.  But he says there is not enough time to process everyone.  Many think the deadline will be extended, but Phiri says some fundamental changes are needed.

"South Africa has been deporting people, although they say they have not been doing it.  And even now the police still continue to harass people on the streets for documentation," Phiri said. "And they are even corrupt as well.  They ask for bribes."

Finally, analysts note that most of the estimated one-million illegal immigrants in South Africa are unskilled workers, including children, who are unemployed or working in the informal sector.

They cannot qualify for the work permits.  As a result, they are likely to continue as before, sneaking across the porous border and surviving on the streets as best they can.

You May Like

Video Protests Continue in Ferguson, Spread to Other US Cities

Missouri officials say deployment of more than 2,000 National Guard soldiers helps curb second night of rampant arson and looting in Midwestern town More

Video Ebola, Crackdown on Illegals Hit Business in Guangzhou

Chinese city has largest community of Africans in Asia More

Video Legendary Lebanese Actress, Singer Sabah Dies at 87

Music and film diva, affectionately called 'Sabbouha' by millions of her fans, performed at Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Albert Hall in London, Olympia in Paris, Sydney Opera House in Sydney More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid