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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid