Home Affairs taking nine months to process permits for Zimbabweans

Some Zimbabweans who applied last year are still waiting as September deadline looms for ZEP permits

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Photo of a Zimbabwean passport
Morgan (surname withheld) applied on 7 December 2017 for a Zimbabwe Exemption Permit. She has been tracking her application online. “Up to now nothing new, almost nine months after submission,” she said. Photo: Brent Meersman

Some Zimbabweans who have applied for their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) are anxious about the slow progress processing their permits. Without a valid permit to show they find their bank accounts frozen, face difficulties registering their children at educational institutions and even lose their jobs.

The ZEP replaces the ZSP (Zimbabwean Special Permit) which expired in December 2017. Home Affairs issued a circular to banks, employers and learning institutions in December that as long as people could show proof of application for the ZEP they should continue to receive services while their application is being adjudicated. However, GroundUp is aware of a number of cases where banks, schools and employers have not heeded this advisory.

Applications for the ZEP opened on 15 September 2017 and the closing date (extended twice) was 15 February 2018.

On 31 January, Home Affairs announced that the ZEP process, including finalising adjudications and issuing all new permits, would be completed by the end of September 2018.

But on 6 September, Home Affairs media manager David Hlabane said in an email response to GroundUp that the department is currently adjudicating applications that were received before the closing date and the process should be completed around October.

GroundUp has been trying every day since Monday to get an answer from Home Affairs as to how many applications have been successfully processed, but without success.

Morgan (surname withheld) applied on 7 December 2017. She has been tracking her application online. “Up to now nothing new, almost nine months after submission,” she said.

Cindy (surname withheld) told GroundUp in an email: “I submitted my paperwork in January and still nothing.” She says she was suspended from work six weeks ago. Her employer wants her to show a valid permit. She did provide proof of application and showed the receipt, but she says her employer wasn’t satisfied.

A Zimbabwean man, who also wished to remain anonymous, said he submitted a ZEP study permit for his daughter in February but he only got an SMS notification that his daughter’s application was received by Home Affairs on 24 August. He said his Capitec bank account has been frozen.

Helen (surname withheld) is worried that she may not get her wages this week after FNB froze her account in December last year. Her employer has been paying her in cash but says the company cannot continue to do that.

The ZEP Dispensation Forum on Facebook is encouraging Zimbabweans not to merely check online but to actually visit the offices of Visa Facilitation Centre (VFS), the company that processes the permits for Home Affairs. The page has posts from people who applied in November 2017 and have not yet received their ZEPs and from people who have been struggling without documentation.

Most Zimbabweans in South Africa have been uncertain about their future in the country since the inception of the Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) in 2010. About 245,000 DZPs were issued. It was valid for four years and was supposed to be non-renewable. It was later extended to three years and renamed the ZSP in 2014. Just under 200,000 ZSP permits were issued. Again in December 2016, Home Affairs said there would be no renewal of the ZSP, but it created the ZEP in 2017, valid for four years.

On the ZEP it states that the document “doesn’t allow the holder to apply for permanent residence irrespective of the period of stay in South Africa. ZEP will not be renewable and the holder cannot change conditions of the permit in SA”.

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TOPICS:  Home Affairs Immigration

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I applied for a permit in Midrand on the 1 December 2017 and until now, I have heard nothing. I emailed them telling them about being unable to access my UIF money because I do not have a permit.

Dear Editor

I also submitted last year on 3 November but if I check on internet it shows that my application was received on 7 November. I went to check in person three times now but have returned empty-handed because they say it is not ready. My capital account was frozen too.

Dear Editor

My journey began in 2015 in trying to renew my work permit after being issued the DZP. I had missed the deadline despite my visa only expiring in 2016, I was informed that I needed to return to Zimbabwe to renew my work permit and my children's study visas.

I applied for an authorisation letter of which I was successful the first time. However G.V.F.S informed me that I needed to receive a benchmark from the labour department. In the interim my authorisation letter expired, home affairs informed me that they only issue one authorisation letter per year. I found myself circling even after paying VFS fees for my children and myself.

The company I worked for became reluctant to assist with further applying for my Work Visa then took the opportunity to withhold my salary. I worked on a commission basis thus jeopardising my children's school visa and fee payments. Eventually we ended up returning to Zimbabwe to apply for the permits. My children missed out on a term and a half of their education. Three are in high school so you can imagine the impact this has on their results. The curriculum in Zimbabwe is also not the same.

We can return to South Africa as tourists. At the boarder they give different return dates for example even though my children are minors my return date will be on the 12th whilst my children will be requested to return on the 8th. We have applied and still waiting for our permits. Whilst being tourists, I have made three initial payments for five people to global VFS a portion of one of the payments was returned.

Dear Editor

I submit my papers on 3 November 2017 in Nelspruit Zep offices. Since I received that sms that tells you that your application has received at DHA for adjudication, I went there once around April this year, I have lost sleep. My bank keeps telling me to renew my account. At work it's the same story they want a real permit. What to do now?

Dear Editor

It would appear that the department has an agenda to make it as difficult as can be when asked to simply do their job.

1. The use of companies such as VFS, to be the conduit is a waste of time and money. (I was declared an "undesirable" due to the lack of knowledge or simple unwillingness to issue the correct document).

2. I have been issued a waiver on my undesirable status however, I must submit the waiver every single time I pass into South Africa. I have been told by officials at O.R. Tambo that with out it, I will not be allowed to enter S.A. and I must carry it for 5 years!

3. After being told to submit my application, I have waited now for a year for anything to happen, and still no idea what I am to do. (I have to still use my foreign passport and identification).

Most of the officials are nasty to say the least. Not knowing that I speak Zulu well, I overheard one lady saying how she hated foreign people. They are a contributing factor to many tourists not spending foreign cash in SA. I travel extensively and have never encountered Immigration officials such as they are in SA.

The nonchalant, bored attitude is a disgrace to the country. One can sometimes feel direct hatred and disdain towards oneself.
Please bear in mind that there are the few who are helpful and courteous.

Dear Editor

I applied for a ZEP permits on 30 November 2017. On 12 December the same year I received a notification saying that my application has been received at the DHA. Until now the outcome hasn't been out. If I check online it tells me that the application was received at home affairs. Don't know what's happening there, because this is affecting my life.

Dear Editor

My name is Blangah Memory Musarara, l submitted my application on th 2nd of November 2017 .VFS said it would take at least 9 months for the outcome. l have been checking online and visiting the offices but with no luck. My employer wants the original permit and not the slip my account has been frozen and l can't pay my bills. This is frustrating because they are people who applied in January 2018 and have already received their permits.

Dear Editor

Home Affairs say they have finalized permits and sent them to the VFS offices. However VFS is holding on to our permits for what reason I do not know. Maybe our suffering amuses them. My permit was sent to VFS offices on 6 November 2018 according to Home Affairs. But VFS tell me application still in process while they do have it as the department of Home Affairs sent it to them. It cannot take more than one month to tell me to come and collect my permit.

Dear Editor

My daughter applied for permanent residency which took three years for the outcome to be released, but before they finalized it, my daughter was told to provide a temporary visa which she did not have at the time since the one she had had expired while waiting for the outcome of her application. She was told to apply for a relative‘s visa which she did. It’s now ten months since she submitted the application, and that visa is not yet processed.

Dear Editor

I applied for my spousal permit on the 08/01/2019 on the 10/01 l received an email notifying me that my application has been received at VFS SA .Since then when checking the status of my application they say its under process.

For how long is it going to be under process? Again I'm stuck. l can't even visit my husband because l don't have a passport. What makes them take so long to process these documents?

Dear Editor

I submitted my application at Midrand on 08/01/2018. When tracking online it shows it was received at DHL on 10/01/2018. to this day I'm still waiting for an outcome. I have been using the call centre for the DHA and every time being told the outcome is on the printing process for more than 6 months now.

I visited VSF three times but nothing yet and they told me they can't help in anyway.

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