Zimbabweans given a reprieve
Zimbabweans whose permits are to expire by the end of the year have been given a reprieve and more time to get new permits.
There are roughly 197‚000 Zimbabweans‚ whose Special Dispensation Permit expires at the end of the year. They are now applying for new four-year visas called the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit and had until the end of November to present themselves in person for fingerprints to be taken.
Now the Department of Home Affairs has given them until the end of January to go to a Visa Facilitation Services ( VFS) office to hand in documents.
All Zimbabweans need to apply online for an appointment by month end‚ however.
VFS which is processing the Zimbabweans has seen about 72‚600 people countrywide.
There are about another 100‚000 appointments‚ booked but yet to be completed.
TimesLIVE reported on Monday it was not clear if the 100‚000 Zimbabweans would be able to be seen by month end.
Many people have been queuing for hours in the sun waiting for appointments with one man telling TimesLIVE last week that they were treated like "dogs".
The temporary VFS office in Midrand is the only facility able to process Zimbabweans in Gauteng. It has been seeing more than 1‚800 people a day. It told TimesLIVE it had almost 100 staff at the offices.
On Thursday‚ Zimbabwean Tendai Chikanga‚ queued for hours at the VFS Midrand centre for his 5pm appointment. He and people who had 3pm appointments were told at 7.45pm to leave as VFS Midrand could not see everyone as their computer systems had gone offline.
Chikanga was told to return in the next two weeks.
He said people with children and pregnant women had to wait for a long time in the sun.
Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni has now extended the appointment time until the end of January.
He said he was thankful to VFS for staying open up until ten at night to accommodate Zimbabweans.
Apleni said: "We want to ensure that people aren't subjected to spending hours in a queue".
Zimbabweans who want to go home for Christmas can do so on an expired ZSP permit‚ as long as they have receipt showing they have applied for the new exemption permit.
Apleni said: "these ZEP permits are not long permanent‚ but with a view to having people return to their countries to build their lives anew."
Chikanga was pleased that there had been an extension for appointments: "That’s actually a good thing. I am sure they will finish [issuing] all the permits."
The chance to book an appointment online ends this month.