South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma held a meeting with Zimbabweans on December 14 to clarify the issue of documentation of Zimbabweans ahead of the 31 December deadline. Here is her statement in full as well as the transcript of her press conference.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen of the media. I will not elaborate on the background to this meeting since I am sure you are aware of this. I will just brief you on our discussions this afternoon.
Basically what we were doing today was to look at what remains to be done in the last days before the end of December – we have a half month left – we will also have some interruptions with some holidays until the 31st December 2010 which is the deadline for the conclusion of this process. There are a number of challenges we have identified and a number of proposed solutions. I will just go through the challenges quickly.
The first one with which we are faced is that the Zimbabweans cannot produce passports at the rate that will allow everyone who has applied to have it before the end of December this year. They are only able to produce 500 passports per day and they work five days per week, at the maximum. As we speak, close to 40000 applications remain. We will clearly then not be able to complete this backlog in the remaining days. So the solution we are proposing is that all those who have applied for their Zimbabwean passports must continue to complete their application forms for regularisation with a copy of the receipt for their passport application attached. We will then be sure they have applied for their passports. Once they have filled in the forms and bring it to us, we will keep them aside until their passports are received and we will then complete the process. This is the proposed solution to the challenge. In this way was well, no one can say that they were still waiting for the passports at the time the deadline for the process was reached.
Two, the next challenge with which we are faced is that we ourselves will probably not be able to complete finalising these applications by 31 December 2010. In part, because the verification by the police – fingerprinting and verification of records – takes time. We have then said this is fine – let people bring in their forms even if they have not yet taken their fingerprints. We will then call them in in batches to have their fingerprints taken. Their forms must be in, even if not accompanied by fingerprints because this process is taking time. Therefore, from tomorrow onwards, we will be accepting all the forms that come in, even if they are not accompanied by fingerprints. No one will be turned back with a correctly completed form. These will be collected and the applicants will be called in to have their fingerprints taken.
All this is to ensure that everyone is inside the process by the 31 December 2010.
The third challenge that we have identified is that of people who may not have documents in South Africa to enable them to apply for passports. Some only have abridged certificates while others do not even have this. They did not bring any documents when they arrived in the country. What we are saying to them, and the Zimbabwean government as well is that they must produce a list of all these people and indicate that they have a birth certificate, they were registered in Zimbabwe but it is not here. Or, they have an ID document but it is not here. And maybe list their parent’s names. There is no way we can process anyone we do not know, for instance, if someone just says he is Zimbabwean with no documents. We will work with the Zimbabwean government in this way, asking them to check their records to verify citizenship. Again, if these people are on the list, we will give them forms to fill and put them aside while we verify with the Zimbabwean government. And those who are able to go to the Zimbabwean consulate or embassy to receive some confirmation that you are a Zimbabwean citizen but are awaiting your passport or ID, we will also take these forms and process them in due course.
These are the main challenges for now and these are the proposed solutions. Up to now, there seems to be more or less agreement on these measures.
These are the challenges on our side and the proposed solutions. But off course, the Zimbabwean government did raise other challenges on their side. We will come back to these.
The other issue is the farm workers in Limpopo, Western Cape, KZN. Here we are working with the farm owners to assist us to document those farmers on their farms. There are teams in Limpopo working with the farmers. We will soon deploy teams to KZN and the Western Cape. All this is being done now so that by the 31st December 2010, we have recorded everyone in South Africa who wants to be recorded. We will deal with the processing afterwards.
Although the process will firmly close on 31 December 2010, the processing will continue beyond this. It means we will not begin with the deportations until we have processed all the applications we have and those who are awaiting passports for which they have already applied. But we will not accept any new applications after 31 December 2010.
Regarding challenges on the Zimbabwean side – I mentioned the one of passports – the other is that they are saying their offices close at 13h00 so people are not able to be processed. We cannot help this unless to raise it with the Zimbabwean side to ask them to perhaps extend their office hours during this period. This is not a solution that we can offer, we can only suggest it and await their response.
The last thing is a bit of bad news for us but it has to be done. Our managers will not be able to take leave until 31 December 2010 because we want them to be on hand should there be difficulties. And depending on how things go, in the last days, we want to work with the police to ask them to work with us – not to arrest, harass or deport anyone – but rather to assist us should the numbers become too overwhelming for us to handle so that we can maintain order. We hope we will not have too big a volume of people to deal with but we know that it is human nature to leave things until the last minute. This is also part of the reason why our managers will not be going on leave so they will be available to deal with any issues.
This is all for now, I thank you.
Questions and Answers
Minister, those people who choose not be documented or in the system, are they liable to face arrest and deportation?
Once we have processed everyone who is in the system, yes.
Minister, you have mentioned the three main challenges although I know these are not new challenges. What is the (inaudible) of questions when we know the answers already?
Many of the challenges are really on the Zimbabwean side. The Zimbabweans are expressing their challenges. Some of issues raised in our last meeting were communicated to the Ministers when we met and we did receive answers which were communicated back to the Stakeholder Forum. But some of the questions, for instance, are that why were some people given permits for a shorter time rather than the agreed time. The response is that if you have a passport that is expiring in 2011, it does not help us to give you a permit for four years on a passport that is only valid for a year. These are some of the questions they were asking. We explained that this was determined by the validity of the passport, but these can be extended and we will extend the permits. There will not be a hurry especially if the permit has been issued for a year or so.
Then there were other questions like what about people who applied for passports in Zimbabwe – could they bring us a receipt from Zimbabwe, so, we asked how they would bring us the receipt if they are in Zimbabwe and they do not have a passport. These were some of the questions we were being asked. This falls outside of the scope of what we are trying to do. How will people who are across the border bring us a receipt without a passport to cross that border? If they have applied in Zimbabwe, they must wait in Zimbabwe and bring us a passport. But the majority of people who are here will be able to bring us a receipt as proof they have applied for their passports. So, it is really mainly questions that are just clarifying or moaning about what is not happening on their side. But we thought that since this is probably the last time we will be dealing with questions at length, we must allow them the time to express their concerns. They were even raising issues of the 90-day visa which is not linked to this process. They are asking many questions some of which are related and others not.
No, there is no reason for us to extend our hours for processing. We have a shift system that works until 22h00. But there is no need to extend the hours because all they do is to bring in a form. The forms are filled in at home and brought back to us. So, there is no need to extend hours just for people to hand in forms.
No, we took the initiative to brief the Public Protector about this issue. The DG had a meeting with her today although I have not yet received a briefing about the outcomes of their discussions. But I think everything went well. She accepted what we are doing so there is no need to talk about extensions. And the extension is not going to happen. We will not extend the deadline. This is why we are saying, bring in your forms even if you do not have fingerprints, bring in your forms even if you do not have a passport, so we know you are here and we can extend the processing time. We will also extend the timeframes for deportation. This is why we are saying there will be no deportations until the processing has been completed, including those who are waiting for their passports.
Minister, how long do you anticipate it will take for the process to be completed? Can you say when deportations will begin?
It will depend on how quickly the Zimbabweans will process the passport applications.
I cannot say when deportations will begin but I can reiterate that they will only begin once the processing has been completed. There is no point in speculation because this process is not in our hands.
Minister, when you last met with your Zimbabwean counterparts, it was mentioned that South Africa may assist Zimbabwe process their passport applications. Are there any developments in this regard?
No, we are still waiting for them. They said they will come back to us once they have returned home to assess the nature of assistance required. Even last week we were on the phone to them asking what assistance they required.
Minister, has there been contact with AgriSA or the commercial farms regarding Zimbabweans who may be employed by them?
We have said our teams are on the farms as we speak. We have been in contact with AgriSA, this is how we are able to know how many and where the farms are.
Issued by Department of Home Affairs
14 December 2010