It was reported this weekend that more than 200,000 Zimbabweans living and working is South Africa run the risk of falling victim to bogus immigration agents as the countdown begins to the deadline of obtaining South Africa’s new Zimbabwean Special Permits.
But organization representing the Zimbabwean community in South Africa have warned that they receive daily complaints that they are tricked into parting with their hard earned cash by fraudsters claiming to be Zimbabwean Special Permit specialists.
These conmen are charging R870 per ‘document’ and applicants are then instructed to deposit the fee into a bank account for which they then receive a fraudulent document.
Siphathisiwe Dube of Solidarity Peace Trust (SPT) said they had received reports that people were being issued with false information, “People must stop listening to bogus agents giving them wrong information. This is worrying because they will realise this when it is too late.”
Dube confirmed that the SPT, together with other organisations, called an urgent meeting at the Hillbrow Theatre in Johannesburg last Saturday to warn the public against the bogus agents.
While the VFS Global online applications for the Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP) opened online two weeks ago. VFS Global have been unable to cope with the influx and queries with many affected Zimbabweans reporting to New World Immigration that phone calls are not being answered and the computerised system is either offline, slow or difficult to understand.
The permit, which was announced by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba earlier this year, gives Zimbabwean nationals the opportunity to work, study and conduct business in South Africa.
But the Department of Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said that 80000 people had already gone through the online process and urged people to follow the information issued by the department, saying they would continue spreading awareness.
“Let us not create more confusion and anxiety than necessary. The information is out there and easily available.”
Dube said she recently stopped people from getting their fingerprints taken at a local police station because that is not part of the application procedure. According to new regulations, all applications must be conducted through the VFS Global website and centres which operate across the country as from November 1.
Earlier in the year, Gigaba announced that 120 Home Affairs staff would be tasked with overseeing the three-month-long process.
Gigaba said only 245000 Zimbabweans who qualified for the previous Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project (DZP) issued in 2010 would qualify for ZSP.
Zimbabwean Community in SA chairman Ngabutho Mabhena said the initial permit in 2010 presented a new lease on life for Zimbabweans who had fled their country’s economic and political turmoil.
“People were able to work and look after their families. During the food crisis, it was Zimbabweans living in South Africa who sent basic necessities.”
Mabhena said undocumented Zimbabweans would continue to outnumber those in the country legally, saying a regional approach to economic development would decrease this.
“We believe South Africa has done its part. It would be unfair for us to expect South Africa to solve all our problems,” Mabhena said while speaking to the Sowetan.