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Archive for the ‘Department of Home Affairs’ Category

Pretoria – Foreign nationals living in South Africa will find the process of obtaining a study, work or business permit much easier in the coming months.

The Department of Home Affairs has announced it has centralised the issuing of permits, which will help to ease the backlog of 13 000 applications. Permits will now be issued from its headquarters in Pretoria.

In the past, permits were applied for at the department’s regional offices across the country. These applications were then sent to the headquarters for adjudication and ratification, resulting in a huge backlog in the issuing process.

The backlogs had a negative impact on the operation of businesses that wanted to bring to South Africa skilled workers from abroad and created hardships for those who apply annually for their work permits to be re-issued.

As a result, the country was losing out on critical skills that had the potential to contribute to the growth of the economy.

The situation was no better for foreign students who, because of the delays in receiving their study permits, lost their spots at academic institutions, Apleni said.

“This is totally unacceptable and has become unbearable for business, students and foreign workers and requires urgent action to facilitate movement for such persons into our country to contribute meaningfully to the development of our country,” Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said.

The minister also wants the permits to be valid for three to five years, doing away with the need for annual applications for permits to be re-issued.

To achieve this, the department was looking into introducing changes to the current standard operating procedures.

He stressed that these measures, with regards to the permits, did not apply to Zimbabwean nationals, who were required to regularise their stay in South Africa following a Cabinet decision.

So far, the department had received 73 407 applications from Zimbabweans wanting to regularise their stay in the country.

Apleni said 20 966 of these applications had been approved, 5 486 rejected, with the rest awaiting adjudication.

The deadline to document all illegal Zimbabweans by 31 December 2010 had not changed, he added. – BuaNews

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Currently the South African Govt at national level has initiated the program of documenting Zimbabweans and have a deadline for the 31 Dec 2010.

The Govt safrica14has refused to budge on the deadline date and they have a very good reason for it.   Although the drive has been geared towards legalizing the status of many Zimbabweans according to the correct legal framework.. this exercise is in essence a white-wash operation to convince the public that some effort has been made towards documenting the approximately 3 million Zimbabweans in South Africa prior to a massive repatriation campaign.

National govt has seen that service delivery issues are on the cards as we gear towards local govt elections next year, and these are bound to be utilized by local leaders to promote xenophobic sentiments in our populations, and might well lead to xenophobic violence.

The national govt has realized that the only short term manner in addressing the migration issue, and with it the xenophobic issues in the country, is to embark on a massive repatriation campaign.  Evidence of this has already shown the light in the last week with massive police and home affairs operations in the central Johannesburg business district, an area mostly populated by foreign nationals from Zimbabwe, Congo, Nigeria and Mozambique.bheki cele3

The national police commissioner General Bheki Cele has announced that “Operation Duty Calls” is a crime prevention operation targeted at criminal activities prior to the Christmas festive season.

However, the majority of residents in the areas targeted to date by Operation Duty Calls have been mainly areas where foreign nationals are resident.  The very fact that the police has been accompanied by a large Home Affairs contingent, is indicative of the nature of the operation to target foreign nationals.

National Govt has been highly diplomatic in this issue, and has avoided coming out and announcing that a massive repatriation campaign has begun in earnest.  The fact remains that Home Affairs will only be able to process about 50 – 60 000 applications for documentation from Zimbabwean nationals by the 31 December 2010.  The rest of the 3 million Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals are due to face repatriation over the next 6 months.

hhgf It is logical that govt has to act in a drastic manner prior to local govt elections next year (which are expected between April and June).  There are huge tensions within the ruling party itself, never mind that between the ruling party and its alliance partners.

Many leaders in high positions in the ruling party and at senior govt positions harbour xenophobic sentiments and these sentiments are clearly illustrated at local govt level where councilors and other local leaders have utilized xenophobic sentiments as mobilization issues.  A power struggle is on the cards for next year’s local govt elections and the National Govt is quite correct in taking such drastic measures to prevent the xenophobia card from being used as a rallying point by local leaders.

General Bekhi Cele has correctly stated that “Operation Duty Calls” is geared towards the festive season.  However he has failed to mention that this operation is just the “starter’ and precursor to the “main course” which is bound to start in earnest in 2011.

safrica11 “Operation Duty Calls” is a early warning system for foreign nationals indicating that the South African Govt would like you to return to your home country over this festive season.  Once the registration process ends on the 31 Dec 2010, the new year will usher in a whole new phase of arrest and repatriation for all foreign nationals in South Africa.

The evidence trail has been clear in the re-deployment of the South African National Defence Force to the borders.  This preparation is not only to ensure and strengthen regular security at our borders, especially with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. safrica1 But is an advance deployment in preparation for massive illegal entry by immigrants after the repatriation campaign begins.

One has to ask if this is the right move by govt.  Although several negative aspects are on the cards for migrants in South Africa, one also has to consider the realities of life in South Africa.  To fight xenophobic attitudes and sentiments prevalent amongst the South African population will be an extremely long process which will include having to address the issue of poverty and service delivery.

However the fact remains, that xenophobic attacks is South Africa are bound to happen and if something drastic is not done then massive attacks as seen in 2008 are going to happen.   This is a point that is reiterated by many Civil Society Organizations and is a fact that is well known to the South African Govt.  Their responsive actions (although not vocal) are a clear indicator that they are aware of the dangers of xenophobic attacks and have decided to take appropriate action.

Many will argue that foreign nationals in South Africa RE-DSCF1111 have a valid reasons for having migrated from their home countries, and that may be so.  However DMPSP is deeply involved in monitoring the xenophobic attitudes and sentiments on the ground in townships around Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North West and Free State.  The dangers of a full scale xenophobic attack are very real and very near.

Although we have to commend the swift action by police after the SWC at Kaya Sands when xenophobic attacks began, and we hope that such swift action will be the norm by the police should such attacks occur again, we have to be realistic in understanding the short-falls/limitations of the South African Police Force and National Defence Force should other large scale, or even larger scale attacks than 2008 occur.

It is certain that the national govt has realized that the 2008 attacks not only gave an indication as to how fast such incidents can occur and spread, but also the limitation of the security forces in being able to deal with large scale civil unrest.

The Security Forces in South Africa have had good experience since jhgfjhf 2008 as to the nature of civil unrest, and their ability to effectively deal with it.   One has only to revise the nature of service delivery protests taking place around the country since 2008 to understand that such protests have by and large been extremely violent.  Many such protests have directly attacked police officers and police vehicles with no fear or respect for the enforcers of the law.

Current Police and Defence Force strengths, morale and discipline will not be able to effectively control massive civil disruption in the country should it occur.  The situation will be accentuated by xenophobic sentiments and attitudes prevalent amongst security force personnel.  Many incidents of xenophobic attitudes and occurrences are reportedly are being perpetrated by Police force and home affairs personnel.

The Kaya Sands incident was easy enough for police to handle as it was isolated and a selected force could be deployed. safrica7 However, should mass xenophobic civil unrest occur, it is doubtful whether the police and even the deployment of the  Defence Force would have any major impact on controlling such violence.  This was clearly evident during the 2008 xenophobic attacks when the Police and Defence Force deployments did little to curb the violence.

We have to criticise National Govt for its lack of communication around the issue of possible xenophobic attacks.  However the need to address the issues leading to xenophobic sentiments, attitudes and possible civic unrest against foreigners is extremely great, and the measures and methods might also have to be extreme.

The reality is that the open door policy of South Africa over the last 10-15 years, including extremely porous borders has led to huge migration of foreign nationals into South Africa, most illegally.  This has led to a huge imbalance in what would normally take place were proper measures being exrcised to control the flow of migration into South Africa.

The attitude of South Africans that foreigners are taking their homes, jobs and resources, whether real of perceived, have a huge impact on the levels of xenophobic sentiments which will lead to violent actions and unrest.

This reality can only be addressed in the short-term by implementing the regulations and legal frameworks which guide the handling of migration, both legal and illegal.

There is no doubt that this planned massive repatriation campaign will possibly ignite some negative sentiments and incidents amongst foreign nationals, and might even lead to an increase in activities by criminal elements towards foreign nationals.efu

However, the campaign will go a long way towards reducing the levels of xenophobic sentiments in the average South African if govt is seen to be doing something about the levels of foreigners in the country.

Given the political climate at present, such a repatriation campaign will also reduce the chances of local political leaders being able to mobilize communities towards xenophobic violence if government is already seen to be busy doing something significant about it.

Although civil society has to closely monitor such operations and campaigns for civil rights abuses, it is our opinion that as much support as possible should be given towards assisting foreign nationals to return to their home country, as well as to the South African Govt in correctly managing and implementing the measures necessary for repatriation.

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Family Hijacked from their home by Dept of Home Affairs officials in “gestapo” style operation.

A family at Jantine township near Meyerton was awoken at 01:00 in the morning to find three officials (2 men and 1 woman) from Dept of Home Affairs who came to arrest them and repatriate them to Mozambique.

The whole family Mr Alberto Gwanbi, his wife Maria and 7 children including an 18 month old baby were taken by these officials and driven directly through the night to Komatipoort (Lebombo) Border Post for repatriation.

The family was not allowed to take any belongings from the house whatsoever. Not even a change of clothing for the children, or even nappies for the baby.

The house was left abandoned, with all their belongings, even Alberto’s old Toyota Stout bakkie. They just loaded them up, NO administration procedures, no taking them to the SAPS Meyerton before sending them on to Lindela Repatriation Center. They just “hijacked” the family with the clothing they had on them at the time and took them away.

Family friend and neighbour Madlamini ( A SA CItizen) says she was horrified.. Her freind phoned in the middle of the night asking for her assistance.. Home affairs officials told her they were taking the family and repatriating them because “they were taking jobs from our people..” She could not believe the xenophobic attitude of the DHA officials.. “Our own South African people are expecting work to come to them while they sit with folded arms” she said. “These people have done nothing wrong. …those children are South Africans”..

She asked the officials if the family was being taken to SAPS. “No.. ” they replied..”we taking them straight back to where they came from…” DHA official told her……It reminded her of Apartheid time police.. just come and take people in the middle of the night. She believes that DHA officials were bribed to come and take the family away..

DMPSP staff have assisted in removing the family’s belonging into safe-keeping. Investigations conducted during the course of the day has revealed that 3 home affairs officials at DHA Vereeninging, fitting the description provided by the neighbour could not be located at their place of work. No one at the office had any idea where they were.. Or had any idea about this so-called operation..

DMPSP finds that this operation is extremely strange and irregular. Jantine Township, and nearby Sicelo informal settlement are places where many migrants (legal and illegal) from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi reside. Why would DHA target only one specific family in such a strange manner.

Albert is self-employed and works from home. His wife is a house wife and is always at home. 5 of the 7 children were born here in South Africa and all attend school around Meyerton or Vereeniging. If DHA had any specific information that led them to target this specific family, they could have found them at home at any time of the day.

Why the “gestapo” style operation. There was no warrant, no documentation, no procedures..

Just load up one specific family at one in the morning and drive to the border.

We find this extremely strange. Not even illegal immigrants captured along the border with Mozambique are handled in this manner.. let alone those captured in and around Gauteng.. Normal arrest procedure would see illegal immigrants captured at that time of the night being taken to the nearest police station. Then to Lindela Repatriation Centre where migrants are evaulated, investigated, documented for repatriation and then repariated.

Our investigations in the area have revealed that the family has been targeted for the piece of land that their small home is located on. Properties in that area and street of Jantine Township have become coveted pieces of land, and there are many people interested in that specific stand. Someone found a way to remove the family.

The DMPSP is horrified as to how the rights of people being flaunted in this manner.. Is that really dignified.. To remove a whole family from their home in the middle of the night.. not even allow them to take change of clothing..

We can understand that if the family was picked up somewhere away from home….maybe at such at distance that it would not prove economically viable for the state to collect the belongings of the family.

We can not always expect the state to run around utilizing resources to collect private belongings of people that are arrested.. But this is a completely different situation.. The family (including an 18 month old baby) was roused from their bed at one in the morning.. (one wonders weather this was a sanctioned or even warranted operation) and not even allowed to take a change of clothing.. or food for the baby.. Nothing… their home was left abandoned.. their belongings scattered.. Children that can only speak Sotho have been sent to a strange land where they cant even understand the language..

DMPSP strongly condemns actions taken by these officials and requests the Department of Home Affairs to immediately conduct a thourough investigation into this matter.. DHA has been plagued with corruption, especially with regards to migrants, and this “smacks” very strongly of corruption.

DMPSP intends to monitor closely and continue to research issues in South Africa regarding human rights abuses being carried out by officials of government.. We are extremely concerned at the general trend in government to flaunt with the Bill of Rights.. Can we really afford to give police shoot to kill powers.. or powers to search without a warrant.. or to give Dept of Home Affairs “gestapo” powers..

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