SA's new visa rules spark outcry

2014-07-10 06:11
(File)

(File) (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Johannesburg - Strict new South African immigration laws have sparked confusion and panic among foreign residents in the "Gateway to Africa" and forced 250 000 Zimbabweans to decide whether to return home.

Walk down most streets in Johannesburg and you will hear accents and languages from across this vast African continent.

Builders by the roadside waiting for work chatter away in the sweet sing-song rhythm of African Portuguese, waiters stand and gossip between orders employing the rolling Rs and whistles that mark out Shona, a language of Zimbabwe and southern Zambia.

Congolese, Somalis, Nigerians, Mozambicans and above all Zimbabweans, flock to the "City of Gold" in search of their own little slice of the riches of the Highveld, as the surrounding region is known.

Since the 1880s, when Johannesburg exploded to life with the discovery of vast gold deposits, it has been a city, and a country, of immigrants.

"Shosholoza", perhaps South Africa's most beloved song originally came from the Zimbabwean workers making the train journey south to work the mines.

But today authorities, wary of the inflow amid brutally high unemployment, have begun tightening visa regulations and closing loopholes.

New rules quickly snapped into force shortly after the May election, catching scores of expatriate workers of guard.

'Sending 250 000 back'

A German doctor waiting six months for the processing of her residence permit was banned from returning to SA for five years for overstaying her tourist visa.

A Briton was stranded in London, separated from her husband and 18-month-old child, after being declared an undesirable immigrant for a similar reason.

There are fears the new rules may hit the vital tourist industry. Immigration consultants have lodged a slew of court cases challenging the laws, which they say are unconstitutional.

Haniff Hoosen, from the DA, says "the new regulations have already ripped apart families, dissuaded investors, and led to the suspension and even cancellation of multi-million rand film and tourism ventures".

But the most far-reaching implication may be felt by the more than a quarter-of-a-million Zimbabweans who fled the political and economic crisis at home after disputed elections in 2008.

They were granted special permits that expire later this year.

According to the new laws, if they want to continue living in the country they will have to return home to apply for extensions.

"Sending 250 000 back just to extend their permits doesn't make sense," said Bernard Toyambi, the paralegal officer of the non-governmental organisation the People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty.

"How will they keep their jobs? How long does the process take?"

The worst fear is mass deportations if no special political deal is secured.

"It's like they're chasing us out, they're killing us," said Sascha Madipa, aged 28, a Zimbabwean immigrant in Johannesburg.

'Like doomsday'

The rules have "created such an element of uncertainty, uneasiness among the people. It's like doomsday," said Gershon Mosiane, an immigration lawyer and president of the Forum of Immigration Practitioners (FIPSA).

"These people were not given ample time, and to declare a person undesirable, our position is that it is arbitrary and is against the principle or the rule of law... that a person is innocent until proven guilty," said Msiane.

South Africa has promised to make a decision on the status of the Zimbabweans, with immigration chief Apleni Mkuseni saying they should "wait patiently and with no panic".

But new South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba signalled a less sympathetic stance.

"Workers from other countries, and I dare say Zimbabwe, have flocked to South Africa seeking asylum. We must ask: Is there a conflict in Zimbabwe which necessitates that Zimbabwean nationals must apply for asylum in South Africa?" he asked.

With Zimbabwe's economy still spluttering, unemployment unofficially estimated to be as high as 80%, a fresh financial crisis looming and president Robert Mugabe recently returned to power for another term, many Zimbabweans are reluctant to return home.

A Zimbabwean opposition politician, Ngqabutho Mabhena of the Movement for Democratic Change, who helped negotiate the special permits, has been talking to SA officials about the looming crisis.

"Our guess is that the majority of the people will want to re-apply because after the 2013 election in Zimbabwe, no Zimbabwean that we have spoken to wants to go back," said Mabhena

Over one hundred years after Johannesburg sprung up from the dust, Zimbabwean workers may again be making a journey, this time northward and homeward, leaving behind a city that is a little less cosmopolitan.
Read more on:    malusi gigaba  |  haniff hoosen  |  johannesburg
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
165 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Mind power dominates and can help you to uncover things from a deeper level, but it can also create entanglements if you let your...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.