Guessing game about illegal Zimbabweans in SA continues


Confusion still surrounds the number of undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa. Some reports say there are about 1.2 million. One British peer yesterday put the figure at 500 000. But the guessing game will be over at the end of this month as South Africa will start deporting those staying in the country illegally if it sticks to its deadline.

South African last year launched a documentation exercise to legalise Zimbabweans in South Africa but only 275 000 applied. Reports before the exercise had said there could be as many as 3 to 5 million Zimbabweans in the country.

Human rights organisations and organisations that say they are looking after the interests of exiled Zimbabweans claim thousands of Zimbabweans did not apply for documentation. But they brought down the figure of illegal Zimbabweans in South Africa to between 1.2 million and 2.5 million.

Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday, Lord Maginnis said 500 000 Zimbabweans will be deported at the end of this month.

South African authorities have not come up with a figure of illegal Zimbabweans. Jacob Mamabolo, head of the Zimbabwe project, said 275 762 had applied for permits. There was a total of 6 243 applications for amnesty. His department had adjudicated over 263 141 applications by the end of June. It was still to adjudicate over 12 621 applications.

Below is Mamabolo’s full statement:



Department of Home Affairs, Arcadia House, Arcadia, Pretoria

Thursday 30 June 2011

Comments by Head of the Zimbabwe Documentation Project Jacob Mamabolo

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, our weekly briefing today will be looking at the status of the Zimbabwe Documentation Project (ZDP).

Cabinet in September 2010, announced an end to the special dispensation that allowed Zimbabwean nationals to enter and remain in the country without legal and proper documents.  Through this dispensation, such nationals were not subjected to deportation.

However, Zimbabwean nationals without documents were required to present themselves at Home Affairs offices throughout the country to apply for work, business and study permits to have their stay in the country legalised.

At this point I must explain why we decided to end this special dispensation.  Many Zimbabwean nationals had over the past few years, following political turbulence in their country, entered South Africa illegally and without documents in an attempt to escape the political and socio-economic conditions in their country.

This however posed serious security challenges to the country since most of them had not been registered either as refugees, asylum seekers or even as economic migrants.

South Africa, nonetheless is a member of the UN and other multilateral forums and is a signatory to a number of international protocols and conventions governing the management of refugees and asyslum seekers. Accordingly, our treatment of these Zimbabweans had to be in accordance with these international conventions and practice.

However, these international practices and conventions and our own immigration laws required that we register every foreigner residing in our country for purposes of planning and other national requirements.

Accordingly, the government decided to embark on a process of documenting Zimbabweans residing in our country illegally. This was done in full consultation with the Zimbabwean authorities including the Zimbabwean stakeholder forum members consisting of Zimbabwean organisations operating from South Africa.

It is a matter of record, that a number of bilateral consultations were held at Ministerial and stakeholder forum levels, resulting in the overall mobilisation of Zimbabweans residing illegally in South Africa. The mobilisation included the granting of amnesty to those who hand over fraudulently acquired ID’s, passports, birth and other certificates.

On the 31st December 2010, we succesfully completed the process of taking applications. We registered a total of 275 762.  This figure include the total of 6243 amnesty applications.

We are pleased to report that we have adjudicated a total of 263 141. We are still to adjudicate 12 621 applications. We have however only issued 133 331. We are still to issue 142 431 Permits.

Since Zimbabwean nationals had acquired loans, obtained qualifications, etc, in some cases using fraudulent South African documents, the Department has also engaged with various stakeholders including the SABRIC, the insurance industry, the Financial Intelligence Centre and all major banks with a view to assisting those who return fraudulently acquired documents to the department and to enable them to lead normal lives in the country.

You will recall that by the deadline of 31st December 2010, we did not take fingerprint and certain supporting documents. We are currently sending Short Messages using a technological sytem to applicants to submit their fingerprints and other supporting documents.

As part of our effort to mobilise Zimbabean nationals to respond to the SMS’s and submit the outstanding documents and fingerprint, the department will be hosting a meeting with the Zimbabwean stakeholder forum on Monday 4 July to update them on progress thus far and to request their assistance in mobilising their compatriots to respond to the SMS’s.

Similarly, we continue to interact with the Zimbabwean embassy and consulate to ensure the fastracking of the issuance of the necessary travel to those who apllied without the necessary travel documents

As per directives of Minister Dlamini Zuma, the department continues to do everything in its power to ensure it meets its obligation to document Zimbabweans living in South Africa. However, we can only succeed with the full support of all applicants.

With everything remaining the same, we are doing everything in our power to ensure the process is completed within our set deadlines. Should there be any more challenges, Minister Dlamini Zuma will communicate accordingly.

Questions and Answers

Question                   What will happen to Zimbabweans who did not apply for documents?

Answer                      (DDG Mamoepa) It is critical at this stage to mobilise all our resources towards the process of completing the documentation of all Zimbabwean nationals who have applied, without having to hold an axe over their heads.  It is critical for us to is to ensure we utilise all available resources at our disposal, including the partnership with the Zimbabwean Stakeholder Forum, government – consulate and Embassy, to ensure we can mobilse all those who have applied to assist us to complete the process of their documentation.  This is the critical message we want to disseminate now.

Question                   Will this process now be applied to other groups of nationals who have applied for asylum in our country?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) You may recall that when we launched the project to document Zimbabweans the principle at hand is that all people in the country must be registered and all those who are not are in violation of the applicable laws and in this case, it will be the Immigration Act.

So whether the issues learnt and experience gained from this process will be extended, will be communicated by the Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and of course, Cabinet, as was applicable in this process, will make the relevant announcement at the relevant time.

(DDG Mamoepa) I just want to remind the colleagues that the Minister did indicate in Parliament that yes, following this project, our intention is to document nationals of other neighbouring countries.  At this stage of challenge is to conclude the process of documenting Zimbabweans who are in the country illegally.  Following that, when we are ready I am certain the Minister will make the appropriate announcement as to when we will begin documenting other SADC nationals.

Question                   What has been the response of the relevant stakeholders the Department has been engaging with?  Regarding the smses that will be sent, does it mean people are not responding?  How many people have responded?  How many remain to respond?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) Firstly the sms process has commenced.  So, applicants who must still take fingerprints and submit documents are receiving smses.

Secondly, on the issue of the stakeholder forum and of course what we want out of the forum – it is important to recognise that the success of this project, from its inception, has been premised on the co-operation of the stakeholder forum.  So, we announced in one of the press conferences that we meet with the stakeholders on a monthly basis, to brief them on the status of the project and also to get their input.  You will remember that even when we concluded the process on 31 December 2010, there has not been any challenges from the stakeholders.  This is as a result of the ongoing co-operation and dialogue with them.

So, the engagement on Monday is part of our ongoing and historic engagement with the stakeholder forum.  It is not just about the smses – it is part of the principled interactions that have been going on.

We are still analysing the responses received and once we have concluded this process, we will let members of the media know about our observations on this process.  At this point we are certainly satisfied that people are responding and we will provide an analysis in due course.

Regarding our discussions on Monday, and as part of our communication and interaction with the applicants, is that when you mobilize people to respond to a call you want this to happen as fast as possible with maximum impact.  The discussions will therefore serve to have Zimbabweans respond as fast as possible, just as we needed them to respond to the call to have themselves documented.

This is part of the discussions but the only important element.

When we meet with the Zimbabwean Stakeholder Forum it does not include the banks and the financial institutions.  This is a separate stakeholder forum.  Our Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma met with the banks and the insurance industries in January this year.  In that meeting the financial institutions were given the opportunity to brief Minister on the challenges that arise from those clients with fraudulent documents who will now require permits to replace these documents.  To put it in short we have received a positive response from the financial institutions since they understand the principle underpinning the documentation process.  It is after all, not in their interest to have people with fraudulent documents transacting with them.  And they support the fact that such citizens must be regularized.

Recognizing the fact that the Department of Home Affairs is the national custodian of citizenship and national identification, when we issue the permits to replace the fraudulent documents, the bank has undertaken to accept these permits since it is only the Department of Home Affairs with the mandate to register foreign nationals who come into the country.  The banks were therefore satisfied with the process and have committed to accepting such documents.

The engagements are ongoing.  We have received co-operation from all partners, including the Zimbabwean consulate.

Question                   Of the 6243 amnesty applications received how many have been successful and how many have been rejected?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) The total number we have referred to regarding the people who have received their permits, this includes some of those who applied for amnesty.  The applicants for amnesty are also the applicants for permits.  Once we receive the fraudulent documents, we issue permits to replace these so that people are properly documented and regularized.  The number we have given includes some of whom have applied for amnesty.

We have said that there were cases that were rejected, particularly in 2010 and we reviewed these cases.  We said at the end of this process that when we finally conclude this project we will announce the number of rejections.  Therefore, at this point, we are not talking about rejections in the process.

The principle is that we should assess applications of those who took the initiative to come forward and apply for documents in a manner that enhances their registration.  We will talk to this issue at the end of the process.

Question                   Would I be right to say the purpose of this briefing is to encourage people to respond to the smses since this is a key aspect of the process?

Answer                      (DDG Mamoepa) I think the response to the smses are an aspect of the process.  But we also wanted to give you the status of where we are in the process.  This is why we have given you statistics and all other information.  The smses are therefore an aspect.

Question                   Why was the fingerprinting not done at the time of application?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) We had to assess the principle consideration at the end of December 2010 – and that was to receive as many applications as possible from as many people who wanted to be documented.  When you have taken applications you still have the opportunity to go back to the clients to work on finalizing the applications.  The main reason was to meet the deadline.  This did not affect those who came forward saying they wanted to register even though they were not in possession of all the required documents.  I think this has worked because currently we can take fingerprints, etc without the pressure of a deadline.  It helped us to meet that deadline and that was really the issue.

Question                   I remember that the majority of Zimbabwean nationals did not have passports and the government of Zimbabwe had to assist with the provision of these documents.  How is this process going?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) The background and context to this question is that Minister of Home Affairs met with her two counterparts from Zimbabwe during which they discussed the capacity of the Zimbabwean government to fastrack and issue passports.  Our initial deadline to close this project at the end of June 2011.  But the Zimbabwean government requested that in order for them to issue travel documents to the list of applicants requiring them – they provided a breakdown by month according to how many they were issuing at that point – and then they asked for the process to be extended to the end of July 2011.

We hold regular meetings with the consulate to assess how they are responding to providing travel documents to those on the lists we had provided.  We received feedback that they are in the position to issue passports to those who have applied for them.  When we met with them recently there had been a remarkable increase in the number of passports produced, also the response from their citizens to collect their documents.  The process is therefore going very well.

Question                   Why do you still have to issue 142 431 permits – is it because people are not collecting their documents?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) Remember that as people submit fingerprints or their supporting documents for a work, business or study permit, this does not constitute adjudication.  Therefore, our adjudication did not stop just because applications did not contain all the required supporting documents.  So as people present their documents – the issue you are referring to refers to issuance, not collection – one people bring their passports we affix the permits in their passports.

Question                   Regarding the passports to be issued by the Zimbabwean consulate – do you have figures of how many people are still waiting for their documents?

Answer                      (Jacob Mamabolo) While we are deeply interested as the Department of Home Affairs on the issue of the fastracking and production of passports, I think you will appreciate that we do not have the mandate to deal with this issue.  It falls within the sovereignty of the Zimbabwean government.  It will therefore be incorrect of us to make comments on processes that relate to another sovereign state – in this case the issuance of travel documents by the government of Zimbabwe to their nationals residing in South Africa.  I would therefore advise that you discuss with the consulate.  What pleases us is the commitment they have made to issuing passports and their co-operation.  But the details thereof remain an issue for the Zimbabwean government as a sovereign state.


Issued by the Department of Home Affairs




30 June 2011



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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