Visa company bureaucracy trips up Zimbabweans

Over 4,000 Zimbabwean still do not have their special permits

Sibongile* has become unemployed and her accounts have been deactivated. “My life is on hold,” she says. Sibongile, who came to Cape Town from Zimbabwe in 2009, has been unable to get a special permit from the Department of Home Affairs which would allow her to work and bank.

The Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) was implemented by Home Affairs in 2009 (it was called the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project then). Its aim was to help Zimbabweans legalise their stay in South Africa. It was renewed in 2014 and it expires on 31 December 2017.

But there have been complaints of bureaucratic hurdles making it difficult to get a ZSP. It’s difficult to know how many people are in the same position as Sibongile. Refugee rights organisation Passop says it has ten such cases on its database. But there are many more.

Tendai Bhiza of Passop says she desperately wants to know what happened to clients’ applications. “Without proper documents they face the possibility of getting arrested or losing businesses. Some of these people have already lost their jobs,” Bhiza said.