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

    Vietnam Urges US to Lift Lethal Weapons Ban Amid S. China Sea Tensions

    US president’s upcoming visit to Vietnam underscores strength of relationship, and lifting embargo would reflect that trust, ambassador says

    Are US Schools Turning a Blind Eye to Radical Qatari Preachers?

    Parade of radical Islamist clerics using mosque at Qatar’s Education City draws mounting criticism for American universities that maintain satellite branches there

    Why Islamic State Is Down But Not Out

    Despite loss of territory, group’s ferocious attacks over past three months seen as testimony to its continued durability and resourcefulness

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora