Zimbabweans in South Africa receive visa lifeline

Zimbabweans citizens living and working in South Africa will be able to apply for a three-year visa extension between October and December this year. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

Zimbabweans citizens living and working in South Africa will be able to apply for a three-year visa extension between October and December this year. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

A three-year extension of temporary visas will prevent the mass expulsion of Zimbabwean workers from South Africa, according to an announcement made by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, yesterday afternoon.

250 000 Zimbabweans who are living and working in South Africa, after fleeing the political crisis back home, were facing a forced move back home as their permits are due to start expiring at the end of this year. With no clear indication of whether or not the permits would be renewed, they faced the possibility of returning home with little to no prospect of employment, according to media reports.

The department has confirmed that Zimbabweans can remain in the country until 2017. South Africa has announced the creation of the new Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) of 2014 and invited all holders of the current permit to apply for the new visa from between the beginning of October and the end of December this year.

Gigaba said yesterday that South Africa recognises itself as “an integral part of the African continent and therefore understands its national interest” in being linked to the continent’s future stability and prosperity.

He noted that Zimbabweans have contributed to South Africa, in education and health sectors. “In general, we appreciate the contribution of the immigrants in our country in terms of enhancing our social, cultural and economic life,” he said.

The Visa & Permit Facilitation Centres will open four new offices in Gauteng, the Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, where they expect large numbers of applicants.

Immigration laws snare lecturers


REGULATION WAR: Deputy Vice-chancellor Tawana Kupe outlines effects the new immigration regulations will have on the functioning of the university.       Photo: Palesa Tshandu

REGULATION WAR: Deputy Vice-chancellor Tawana Kupe outlines effects the new immigration regulations will have on the functioning of the university.
Photo: Palesa Tshandu

SOUTH Africa’s new immigration laws have left international lecturers in a regulatory crossfire creating a headache for universities across the country.

A researcher at the African Centre for Migration & Society (ACMS) Roni Amit said the new laws have created less flexibility for lecturers who are currently working in the country under the exceptional skills visa.

“They [South African government] have eliminated the exceptional skills visa. Individuals must now apply for a critical skills visa,” said Amit.

The critical skills visa would require individuals to submit the work they have done to support the claims of their qualifications including a published list of their skills, said Amit.

This means that foreign lecturers without doctoral degrees will not qualify for this visa “unless they fall under one of the other published categories of skills”.

Opposing Immigration Laws

This could make the transition from researcher to lecturer more difficult, according to Amit.

“We are opposing the law, but while we are opposing it we actually have to obey it,” said Deputy Vice-chancellor Prof Tawana Kupe.

“We have sent in representations to say that the law will affect the way that we function as universities, those representations will be done through HESA (Higher Education South Africa),” said Kupe. 

Kupe said Wits had co-ordinated a meeting together with the Department of Home Affairs with 26 human resource officers from the country’s universities. They met to discuss the new laws and express their frustration with the laws, Kupe said.

The university has taken measures to ensure the government is aware of the implications the new regulations will have on how the university functions.

“We have sent in representations to say that the law will affect the way that we function as universities, those representations will be done through HESA (Higher Education South Africa),” said Kupe.

Dr Ufuoma Akpojioi, a lecturer in the media studies department who is originally from Nigeria said the new regulations are “strange” and make it difficult for his family to visit him here.

According to Amit, aspirant researchers who want to complete a doctoral or post-doctoral degree in South Africa will also be affected by the new regulations.

An International Dilemma 

Researchers will have to apply for a visitor’s visa which will have had to be authorised through university-based research, the regulations however will “not allow a holder of a visitor’s visa to apply for a different visa from inside the country”.

Overstaying your welcome in the country could result in being declared as “undesirable” meaning that individuals could be banned from the country for one to five years, said Amit.

“I was in Italy and the United Kingdom recently and all South Africans expressed their concern – there is a lack of faith in home affairs’ efficiency,” said senior lecturer in Italian studies Alida Poeti.

However not all international lecturers will be affected by the regulations as “it depends on what permit they have”, said Kupe.

Head of International Office Gita Patel will be responsible for organising international staff members with the eligible paperwork.


Postgraduate students still struggling with SA visa regulations

by Doreen Zimbizi, Kudzai Mazvarirwofa and Roxanne Joseph.

Newly issued visa regulations from the South African Department of Home Affairs have led to frustration and anger among foreigners, including Witsies, living in the country.

The regulations, issued in June this year, states that any foreign person living in South Africa is not allowed to change the state of their permit here but must do so at the “mission abroad,” i.e. the South African embassy in that person’s home country.

In order to travel back for this permit status changes, the existing permit must have at least 30 days on it. Anyone who overstays on a permit will be declared an ‘undesirable’ and will be blacklisted.

Additionally, while students could previously travel back to their home countries using the proof of application for a study permit, the new regulations sates that anyone who attempts to leave the South African border with this proof, will be in contravention of the act and charged with a spot fine and or blacklisted.

At the end of June, Wits University facilitated a discussion on the new immigration regulations and how they affect the student community. Initiated by the Department of Home Affairs, the forum was attended by representatives from 16 of South Africa’s 23 universities.

Gita Patel, manager of the Wits International Student Office, said the under the new regulations existing students would now renew their permits online while new students will be required to apply in their home countries. A department of Home Affairs official, who refused to be named, said the department is currently facing a backlog in the issuing of permits and as a result students are forced to return to their home countries, sometimes regularly, in order to comply with the regulations.

Babongile Pswarai, a returning master’s student at Wits says she got her study permit for her honour’s degree at UCT (University of Cape Town). After the permit had already expired she had return to Zimbabwe to re-apply before she became an illegal resident. She experienced with the difficulties with the embassy while there.

“The embassy in Zim[babwe] was awful. It’s like the people there don’t even know themselves what they are doing. Either that, or they just don’t want to work.”

Wits University enrols about 2 500 foreign students every year and Patel said the number of outstanding permits fluctuated. She hoped the new system would streamline the process. Patel advised students to plan ahead by applying at least 60 days in advance and to check the progress of their online applications regularly. The process normally takes six to eight weeks.

WITS NEWS: Transforming Home Affairs one conversation at a time

This information is taken from Wits News: please contact  wits.news@wits.ac.za


Wits Business School will host Home Affairs Minister, Naledi Pandor and the Director of Wits African Centre for Migration & Society, Prof. Loren Landau to discuss Immigration, Home Affairs & the Economy, Xenophobia, Corruption and the New National Identity Cards.

 Date: 19 September, 2013

Time: 18:00 for 18:30

Venue: Donald Gordon Auditorium, Wits Business School, Parktown

RSVP: sue@vibrantmedia.co.za


Facebook scammer needs identity booklet

I recently accepted a Facebook friend request from someone with the same name as my brother.

The “Facebook friend” Jabulane Zwane and I became friends about two months ago. Soon after that he told me he had been abandoned by his biological parents, lived with his adoptive parents and needed my help to get a South African identity document (ID). Initially I was apprehensive as there are scams around. I wanted to delete but instead I decided to ask questions.

When I asked him how he would like me to help him he responded “go to hmeafairs n confes dat u knw me”.

This was clearly a problem for me as I didn’t know this Jabulane Zwane. I began to wonder if he was a desperate person in need of an identity document or if this was a case of an identity theft scam.

Home Affairs spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa told Vuvuzela: “There are black people who were not registered on the database of the country; these people need to apply for a late registration birth.”

Mamoepa said the person must present themselves at Home Affairs and they can apply on their own behalf. They should bring their birth certificate, police affidavit, people who know them and a school report.

There was an incident in 2009 when a young boy killed himself because he had such trouble getting an ID. Skhumbuzo Mhlongo, born in 1987, killed himself in frustration. The Home Affairs official who was conducting his interview was not satisfied with the information Mhlongo gave and accused him of lying. The official tore his papers, threw them at him and said Mhlongo was clearly not a South African citizen. They called him a derogatory name used for foreigners.

My Facebook “friend” Zwane about two weeks ago, claimed to have the same issue “eish I dnt hv mum n dad n I lv wth th stp parnts n I dnt hv brthcirtficate”, he wrote on my private inbox. He said that as a result of not having an ID he’s been told to stop attending school “ja n thy say I cnt go to xkul if I dnt hv it.”

Zwane claims that he went to Home Affairs with his adoptive parents to apply for a late birth certificate. His application was rejected, he said, because he didn’t have enough information to prove that he was a South African citizen. He has now become desperate.

“I rathr die, myb thngz will get bttr 4evry1” he wrote. I started getting concerned about his well-being, bearing in mind Mhlongo’s suicide.

But as Mamoepa said “the danger is you don’t know who approached you, you are taking a chance”.

I still don’t know whether Zwane is a scam artist who has access to the internet, a Facebook account without a profile picture looking to scam students or if he’s a 19-year-old young man desperate to get an ID in order to further his studies.


Home Affairs graces Wits

WITSIES were spared the traditional queues at the Department of Home Affairs when officials came to campus on January 21 and 28 to help foreign students apply for new study permits and renewals.

The officials, from the Johannesburg Regional Office: Temporary Residence Permit (TRP) Division, were on campus for a limited time. International House was so busy that some students were worried they would not get served. However, student reaction to their visits was positive.

Milla Malavoloneque, 3rd year LLB, from Angola, said she was glad to have the officials on campus. “There are long queues in town. So if they come here they will send the visa here and international office will call you. Then you won’t have problems.”

Malavoloneque chronicled the problems she had experienced in the past. “I studied at Dansa International College in Pretoria before coming to Wits,” she said. “When I got a place here I applied for a four-year study permit but was only issued with a 15-day one for my previous school.”

She said she was grateful to Wits International Office as they took care of everything to ensure that she eventually got a permit, which came after a year. “I sat for a year without a visa. I had problems with changing my account at the bank, I couldn’t travel home, and could not get my driver’s licence without it.”

An MSc Engineering student from Zimbabwe, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he feared giving his name would worsen his plight, said he was disgruntled with how home affairs had handled his application for permanent residence.

He was given a five-year quota work permit which had to be endorsed annually. “The first three endorsements went well. In February 2011 and again in 2012, I did not get the stickers to show the renewal of my permit. They kept telling me to ‘come back and check again, it’s coming’.

“After five years here, I now qualified for permanent residence which I applied for. I was told that my PR could not be processed until I got the two endorsements. It’s just that I’m naturally a cool person or I’d be really cross.”

Acting Head of WIO, Gita Patel, said her department invited the Department of Home Affairs onto campus four times in a year, January and February, July, and October.

“The purpose of the drive is to assist the international Wits community (staff and students) to submit their applications for work and study visas,” she said.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela 1st edition, 6th February 2013