Zimbabweans complain of Home Affairs incompetence

Numerous waiver letters contain incorrect information

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Zimbabweans who are lawfully in the country have complained to GroundUp that Home Affairs errors are jeopardising their employment and visa applications. Illustration: Lisa Nelson

  • When government announced the scrapping of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit, permit holders were told to apply for waivers of the usual immigration requirements and to seek alternative visas.
  • Zimbabweans who were successful, however, complain that Home Affairs has put incorrect information on their waivers.
  • This jeopardises their continued employment and their ability to apply for a visa to live in South Africa.

With the government determined to scrap the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), permit holders were told they must apply for waivers and seek alternative visas if they wish to remain in South Africa legally.

A waiver allows ZEP holders, many of whom have been employed for years in South Africa, to continue in their jobs without having to go through an immigration process from scratch with the Department of Labour, for instance proving that the job was advertised and no South African applicant applied or was qualified for the position. Successful waiver applicants then apply for a general work visa.

In December 2023, Minister Motsoaledi said just over 78,000 Zimbabweans had applied for waivers and about 10,000 for alternative visas.

But a number of waiver applicants GroundUp spoke to say they have found themselves facing a new dilemma. Their waiver applications have been successful, but the letters have errors – names, job descriptions and the companies employing them are incorrect.

This means they are legally in the country but with incorrect papers.

They showed GroundUp their waivers as proof, but they did not want their names published as they fear they will be victimised by Home Affairs. The waiver letters follow a format stating the regulations as well as the applicant’s ZEP number, name, employer and position of employment. They are signed by Minister Motsoaledi.

GroundUp is aware of a quality controller who received a waiver stating they are a baby carer; a safety officer designated as a cleaner, and a teacher as a school principal. There are many more such complaints shared on Zimbabwean WhatsApp groups and social media.

People we spoke to say they are told by VFS Global (the service provider for the Department of Home Affairs) not to collect the waivers but to write a complaint about the issue and have VFS return the waiver to Home Affairs.

There are so many cases posted on social media that some Zimbabweans believe it is being done on purpose by Home Affairs.

James Chapman of the Scalabrini Center said their organisation has not received any client with such errors. However, he explained that if a waiver has errors, it will make it “very difficult to get a visa because VFS verifies the information on the waiver certificate and if it’s not correctly reflecting, then there are high chances of the application getting rejected”.

He said visa applications are routinely dismissed even if there is a minor error. The visa fee of R1,550 is not refunded.

“Employers can also be placed in a hard situation if documents of their employees are not properly exhibited and correct. They will find it difficult to deal with UIF and to also claim for tax benefits from SARS. I am not sure how employers will be able to address this situation,” said Chapman.

Mary (not her real name) arrived in South Africa nearly 20 years ago and works as a domestic worker. She says she was at first overjoyed when she received her waiver approval in 2023, only to discover it stated that she is a truck driver.

VFS advised her that they will return the document to Pretoria for rectification. Over a year later this has not been done.

Her employer, since 2014, is unhappy and concerned that they will now be in trouble with the law. She may lose her job as a result.

Harry (not his real name), a fruit farm supervisor since 2010, received his waiver this year, but was also designated as a truck driver.

His employer is unhappy and worried about how they will explain this to an inspector from the Department of Labour.

Harry says he has spent hundreds of rands now on taxi fares travelling to VFS, which has been unable to sort out the problem.

We have seen many more examples of incorrect information.

GroundUp has been trying since 9 January to get comment from Home Affairs spokespersons Siya Qoza and David Hlabane.

TOPICS:  Home Affairs Immigration Zimbabwe Permit

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