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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More