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SOUTH Africa will from this week start deporting all illegal immigrants, including thousands of Zimbabweans. In the case of Zimbabwe, those who face deportation from tomorrow, failed to regularise their stay under the 2010 Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project (DZP), an arrangement which allowed people to acquire permits for them to either work or study in South Africa until 2017.

For some reasons, about 50 000 Zimbabweans failed to meet the deadline and still have their applications pending.

South Africa’s Home Affairs director-general Mr Mkuseli Apleni says at least 242 000 Zimbabweans benefited from the DZP in 2010 and are eligible to study or work in South Africa under the new Zimbabwe Special Permits programme.

In an interview carried in yesterday’s issue of The Herald, Mr Apleni stated “We want to make it categorically clear that all Zimbabweans who failed to acquire permits in 2010 during the DZP will, with effect from October 1, be deported from our country.”

While the figures in the article give the impression that there could be about 300 000 Zimbabweans affected, the truth is that this is a small fraction of the total number. Zimbabweans skip into South Africa for different reasons, many of them through illegal or undesignated points where some drown in the Limpopo River, are killed by thugs in the bush or women get raped.

There is a belief that there are more opportunities for employment in South Africa than there are in Zimbabwe.

Then there are others who claimed their lives were in danger in Zimbabwe because of their political affiliation and concocted stories of persecution.

Most of these people do not have proper documents. Some of them, because of the wild claims they made about the situation back home, are afraid to come out in the open. As a result, they engage in cat and mouse games with the authorities in South Africa.

Every month hundreds of Zimbabweans are deported, but some still continue to trek down South. We believe the issue of illegal immigrants needs to be tackled resolutely but tactfully.

There are also credible reports that Zimbabweans are engaged by white farmers as labourers only to be betrayed by the same the moment they demand their wages at the end of the month. Some are subjected to beatings and other forms of inhuman treatment and, because of their illegal residence status, they cannot expose these injustices for fear of exposure.

What cannot be denied is that South Africa has a right to deal with illegal immigrants and residents in its territory according to its laws. Every nation has that right. This is because municipalities have to plan for social services, and they can only do so effectively if they know the number of people they are planning for. Illegal residents become an unplanned strain on resources.

The other downside is that given the high unemployment levels in both countries, there is latent resentment against foreigners. This led to a flare up of xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008 which left a number of foreigners dead while property was destroyed. Without proper documentation, it is difficult for the authorities to anticipate such incidents.

At the end of the day, it is the duty of Zimbabweans themselves to decide whether they want to remain in South Africa. If that is the case, they must respect the laws of Rome. We believe they were given sufficient time to sort out their papers.

Source : The Herald