Delayed study permits hinder international students registration

More than 30 international students are still unable to register for the 2018 academic year at Wits University as they have not yet received study permits.

The Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy president, Tshenolo Leshika, told Wits Vuvuzela that students the approached his organisation, the International Students Office and the Wits Zimbabwe Society for assistance.

Leshika said although the Zimbabwean students were the most affected, students from Swaziland had had similar issues earlier in the semester.

“The issues are being handled in the same way. It might just take slightly longer with the Zimbabwean students because of the volume issue,” Leshika said.

“We are liaising with the office of International Students, and they are communicating with Home Affairs and the embassy to speed up the process. We’re pleased with the cooperation we’re getting from the office of International Students and their willingness to go above and beyond for the student body. We are reaching out to faculties to allow these students to register late,” said Leshika.

Tinashe Dzinoreva, a student unable to register for his first-year of BA Law said he had applied for his permit on January 20. “I thought I’d be at school by now. I went to the Visa Facilitation Services Global (VFS) to ask what was the problem and they said they don’t know. I also found lots of other people in the same situation. We are just waiting, sitting at home and there’s not much we can do.”

VFS administers the visa applications so students don’t go directly to the embassy anymore.

Dzinoreva is hopeful that the SRC’s advice to get in touch with his faculty and plead his case will work. “I sent an email to the Faculty of Humanities on Friday [February 23] to ask for permission to register late but I haven’t gotten feedback yet,” he said.

The Faculty of Humanities told Wits Vuvuzela that the official deadline for late registration for their students was February 12.

Wits University’s Senior Communications Officer, Buhle Zuma said, “By law, the University is not permitted to register international students who do not have a valid study visa. The Wits International Students Office has been in contact with officials at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to highlight the challenges faced by applicants. The Office requested intervention from the DHA as they are the custodians of the Immigration Act. The University permitted late registration for students who were experiencing delays; these were also specific faculty requirements. Students should check with their Faculty for the last possible date. It is not in the student’s academic interest to register late as many classes have already commenced with tests and other assessments.”

Zuma told Wits Vuvuzela that this is not an unusual occurrence. “In previous years, there has always been a backlog at the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe; this is mainly due to the high volume of applications submitted. To expedite the process the DHA deploys additional staff in Pretoria to assist. In 2018, the South African High Commission in Swaziland introduced new requirements for study visa applications which were outside of the standard check list,” she said.

International Students Office’s manager, Gita Patel, said, “The returning students should have applied for renewals here in South Africa and always have the correct supporting documents when they apply for new or renewal of visa. The faculties have to agree because you also don’t want to disadvantage the student. It’s already three weeks into the term and some courses may have already covered a lot.”

Tafadzwa Chikanya 20, a student unable to register for her BCom Honours told Wits Vuvuzela that she is also one of many struggling to get her study permit. “I hear that there is a go slow happening with either the South African Embassy and/or the Zimbabwean embassy. I know of people who applied for their visa on the 10/11th of January and already got theirs last week yet I applied for mine on the 9th of January and I am still not sure when I will actually get it.

“The past two weeks I have contacted the SRC and they have tried to help. Previously we had asked for our respective faculties and International Students Office to extend our registration dates. They agreed to extend mostly up until February 28, although some faculties are not allowing this. For my programme I have been given up until March 2, to explain what is going on. My faculty accepted my reasons and they haven’t really expressly allowed me to register late but there has been ongoing communication between us. There is a big Whatsapp group I’m on of 106 participants, where we update each other and some people say that they got offers to get their visas quickly at a hefty charge of $600,” said Chikanya.

Leshika said the SRC had plans to make sure such delays don’t occur in the future. “We intend on reminding international students to apply much earlier for their visas through heavy campaigning, their school councils, faculties, CSO’s and house committees,” said the deputy SRC president.

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.

Elections poser for Zimbabwe students


A CHOICE TO MAKE: Zimababweans go to the polls on Wednesday Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

A CHOICE TO MAKE: Zimababweans go to the polls on Wednesday         Photo: Mfuneko Toyana

A LARGE number of Zimbabwe-born Witsies will not be able to cast their votes in what is supposed to be a watershed election for the country next Wednesday.

The July 31 ballot takes place only two weeks into the current university term. Many Witsies say they cannot, financially and academically, afford to travel back to their home towns and exercise their right to vote.

Zimbabwean citizens living and working in South Africa will not be able to cast their votes at the Zimbabwean embassy either, as many had hoped.

This comes after Zimbabwean Electoral Commission failed to put in place organisational measures necessary to allow Zimbabweans living South Africa to vote.

Logistics, however, are not the only reason Witsies born in Zimbabwe said they would not be voting.


Witsies Speak

Third-year BA Law, Politics and International Relations student Tapiwa Gozhore said he hadn’t registered to vote because he did not see a reason to vote.

“I believe there is no choice in the Zimbabwe elections,” Gozhore said.

A Bulawayo-born student, who did not want to give her name, said she was a registered voter but would not be crossing the border to cast her vote.

“In the last one [elections] even though I voted the results were already there, so I think it is a waste of time and money when there’s already a winner,” she said.


In Previous Times

Last month, President Robert Mugabe proclaimed the July 31 election date, citing Zimbabwe’s constitution requirement to push for elections within 30 days.

Opposition parties, mainly the Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), as well as the Southern African Development Community, pleaded for a 14 day extension to prepare for the vote, but this was rejected by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.

Tsvangirai told the New African magazine: “President Robert Mugabe has proceeded to pass unlawful decree enacting on his own amendments to the Electoral Act.”

Bulawayo-born Langa Moyo, Masters Engineering, told Wits Vvuvzela that he had also not registered to vote.

“The time frame wasn’t good enough for me. It [registration] was a rushed thing. You know the opposition and everyone was trying to extend the dates, and the ZANU-PF guys were trying to make sure elections come as early as possible. Everyone was confused about whether to go to Zim now, or should I go later to register.”

Witsie Cassian Mavhaire said he had no plans of returning to Zimababwe because there were no opportunities for graduates in the country.

Mavhaire said Mugabe was the bad guy and MDC-T were the good guys.

“The best situation is for the unity government to be in place rather than for us to have a one-party government,” he said.


Gozhore said he did not see a reason for elections at all in Zimbabwe. He said people were supporting opposition parties only because they despised ZANU-PF.

“For me that’s not a democratic country…People should vote based on choice, so that I vote for MDC because I don’t like ZANU-PF, but I vote for MDC because they have policies that will develop our country for the next 30 years.”

Zimbo: Zim’s second chance

Zimbo is a play that depicts the hardships Zimbabweans face daily and what they hope uMsindisi (the messiah) will grant them on his second coming.

Writer and director, Bhekilizwe Ndlovu, a Wits masters graduate in applied drama, said he was inspired by Woza Albert!

“The play illustrates how different players have contributed to the demise of a once-beautiful Zimbabwe which was considered the bread ‘basket of Africa’.”

The play is performed by Witsies Cornet Mamabolo and Thembile Tsuma.

In Woza Albert! the characters ask the messiah to raise their struggle heroes from the dead, but in Zimbo there is a turning point when uMsindisi tells the characters to stop being cowards and become their own heroes by solving the challenges they face.

“People are quick to run to all sorts of places and players, such as the Southern African Development Community and the United Nations to help solve their problems.

Zimbo teaches us that we can become our own heroes and not even necessarily through violence,” said Ndlovu.