The Sunday Mail
The Zimbabwe National Security Task Force last week arrested more than 600 people for illegally crossing into either Zimbabwe or South Africa along the Limpopo River. An additional 700 illegal immigrants were arrested in South Africa and deported back to Zimbabwe after local authorities launched an operation to address illegal migration.
The Sunday Mail’s HARMONY AGERE (HA) spoke to Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr David Hamadziripi (DH) about the developing situation.
HA: We understand that the South African government has launched a massive clampdown on undocumented immigrants including Zimbabweans, and that operation has left many expatriates stranded. What is the situation on the ground? Are Zimbabweans safe?
DH: To our knowledge, from time to time the South African authorities conduct targeted operations to enforce the country’s laws, be they to do with immigration or other regulations.
Currently, just like the Zimbabwean authorities, the South African authorities have mounted special operations around Musina to combat irregular entry into South Africa through the Beitbridge border and surrounding areas.
Reports that I have read indicate that Zimbabwean nationals, numbering in the hundreds, have been arrested and deported as a result of that operation.
We do not have authoritative information on the number of those who have been apprehended and deported in this operation.
HA: What efforts are being made to assist undocumented Zimbabweans so that they can be able to work freely and access public services in South Africa?
DH: The embassy and the consulates regularly and never miss an opportunity to advise and encourage Zimbabweans in South Africa to respect the laws of the country by, among other things, ensuring that they have the proper documents to be in the country.
In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic environment and regulations, the consulates have implemented several initiatives such as instituting an electronic platform through which our nationals can seek and secure appointments to enable them to apply for birth certificates and passports.
Through these initiatives and with the support of the relevant authorities in Zimbabwe, the consulates have cleared the backlog of applicants that had accumulated during the various lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
During those lockdowns, the consulates had been obliged to close the offices and were thus unable to deliver these services to our nationals.
HA: There are reports of diplomatic tension between South Africa and Zimbabwe over immigrants, is there any truth to this?
DH: I am not aware of any diplomatic tensions between Zimbabwe and South Africa over immigrants.
Concerning the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit, the Government of Zimbabwe has noted and acknowledged the sovereign decision taken by the South African government on that matter.
It has encouraged the concerned Zimbabweans to comply with that decision.
Both Zimbabwe and South Africa seek to ensure regular and orderly migration between and into their territories, hence the clampdown on irregular migration at Beitbridge.
HA: Is it true that the exemption permits have been extended by another 12 months?
DH: Yes, the validity of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit has been extended to December 31, 2022. Refer to the Minister’s (SA Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi) immigration directive.
HA: Are there any discussions going on with your South African counterparts to solve the border situation?
DH: There are several joint mechanisms between our two countries that meet regularly to discuss and agree on common and joint approaches in addressing these issues.
The arrest of the 600 people is evidence of the implementation of some of these common activities in order to deal with this unacceptable and unwanted practice.