06 September 2010
Transcript of the briefing by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, September 3 2010
*Minister Dlamini Zuma on end of special dispensation for Zimbabwean
citizens Gallagher Estate, Midrand, Johannesburg*
3 Sep 2010
Thank you and good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media. We thought we should just explain because we thought the matter may not have been properly understood. You will recall that in April 2009 the previous Minister of Home Affairs announced that there was a moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabweans and there would be a special dispensation where for one year they should get documents for Zimbabwean officials based in South Africa. Those who are employed should inform us at Home Affairs and others should receive the appropriate documentation. That dispensation was just to allow them to normalise their stay in South Africa. This is normal practice.
This year ended in April 2010. We then had a meeting with our Zimbabwean counterparts to say that year had ended and the dispensation must come to an end. In our discussions we were informed that a large number of Zimbabweans had been documented but they could not assure us that they had reached all their nationals.
This is why we decided that rather than stopping the dispensation abruptly, we should build in time so those who were not documented could be documented and their stay in South Africa regularised and given them an opportunity to inform us of their pursuits in the country so we could return to the status quo before the dispensation.
This would also enable us to know who is in the country. This will not end with the Zimbabweans. We are beginning with them because of the special dispensation. We will proceed to other nationals. Because I think it is important we know who is here and why they are here.
This is really the issue. To ensure we deal with this appropriately, we have agreed with the Zimbabweans there will be a joint team and those who are here can come to us with letters from their schools, their employers, etc. to show us what they are doing in the country. We will then give them the necessary permits.
The Zimbabweans have assured us that everyone who needs to be documented will be documented. They have even sent their registrar-general to ensure that this matter will be handled efficiently and appropriately. I want to stress this because I was listening to some talk shows and a human rights lawyer was asking how the government could allow only three months for this matter to be dealt with. It is not three months. The dispensation ended in April this year.
*Questions and answers*
*Question: *Minister were you surprised by the reaction of non- governmental organisations (NGOs), that they did not understand the government's decision?
*Question: *NGOs have said that the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe has not changed significantly. How was the situation assessed that lead to the South African government deciding to repeal the legislation?
*Question: *The government spokesperson yesterday also suggested this was intended to address crime, in terms of fingerprinting, etc, is this so?
*Question: *How much will it cost to send the undocumented Zimbabweans back to their country? How will the process be conducted?
*Answer: *Firstly the dispensation was taken in conjunction by the two governments. It was not a dispensation that was agreed to between a government and NGOs. Therefore we held consultations with the Zimbabwean government who actually entered into the agreement with our
I must also make it very clear, it was dispensation that was undertaken without being dependent on the situation improving or not. All that we are saying is that the Zimbabweans who are in South Africa must present themselves to the authorities and say who they are and what they are doing.
I am really not sure what this has to do with the situation in Zimbabwe.
Because we are saying, they must all come out, say who they are, what they are doing and we can regularise their stay. The dispensation was not implemented dependent on whether the situation in Zimbabwe improves or not, it was meant to ensure that the stay of Zimbabweans in South Africa could be regularised. This has to be done irrespective of the situation in Zimbabwe.
Those in South Africa must have their stay regularized.
I'm not sure about fighting crime. The decision was meant to ensure that the stay of Zimbabweans in South Africa is regularised. We are going to make sure we regularize all who are in South Africa. So, crime fighting was not part of the agreement or the equation. What is important is that we expect all South Africans to be registered, to be in our population register.
And so, if you were to go to any country in the world you would have to announce your arrival, say who are, what you are doing. This is normal. So, all we are asking the Zimbabweans in South Africa is that they must come out, go to their Embassy or consulate, receive documentation, come to us and then we can provide the necessary documents to them. So, I am really not sure why we would have needed to have this discussion with NGOs. But perhaps you can clarify this for me because perhaps you understand better.
I do not see why we should not register and know the people who are in South Africa.
I have not assessed the situation in Zimbabwe but I am not sure it has gotten any worse than it was. In reality it may have improved, how much, I am not sure. However, this dispensation was not linked to this matter-rather to those who are in South Africa undocumented and their stay in
the country unregularised.
*Answer: *I do not know but I actually drafted the paragraphs of that statement, there was nothing about the situation in Zimbabwe or about fighting crime in those paragraphs. I would doubt that these things would have been included in the statement he read because these things were not discussed in Cabinet.
What we discussed is that the year's dispensation is over and this is how we intend to finish the matter. We did not discuss an assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe. Perhaps this came out in his interactions with the media.
*Question: *I have just returned from a visit to the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa. One of the main complaints from the South African Defence Force (SANDF) is that Home Affairs is a hindrance. Will this new legislation assist the newly deployed SANDF to assist them protect the country's borders?
*Answer: *South Africa has laws and also adheres to international conventions and treaties. When someone comes to your offices and says they are applying for asylum, according to South African law and international conventions, you are obliged to listen to them. And precisely because this dispensation was not there initially, all of them went to the asylum offices and took that route because there was no other way. The system became really clogged.
Even when people say they are from Mozambique, there is no problem in Mozambique, except for now. And spin stories about how they are now asking for asylum. The same NGOs and human rights people will be fighting us if we say we do not want to hear these people's case because according to the law and the convention you have to hear the case and give these people the appropriate support and assistance.
They must receive a permit saying they are seeking asylum until the processes have been exhausted. We also have a process where they can appeal if their application is rejected. That appeal process is not within our hands, it takes a very long time. We have been discussing this with the appeals board. But there is no way we can be a country that has adhered to democracy and international conventions and say we will not hear people's cases when they are seeking asylum.
Now, the border line is not a Home Affairs issue. But obviously those that come through the border line come for two reasons - this is why we have negotiated very hard with the Zimbabwean government that they must document their people. It is short cut for them to go through the border line when they do not have the correct documents.
If they had the correct documents, they would go through the normal ports of entry. So, it is not Home Affairs - whether those people in that country have documentation - when they don't, they take a chance because they cannot come through ports of entry being taken care of by Home Affairs because we only allow those with legal and correct documents, unless they are refugees.
I do not think we can say it is just because Home Affairs allows them to go to the refugee centres. We are obliged to do so.
*Question: *We are here because something has changed. Has the government changed its position on immigration because until today there has been a perception that South Africa has had a flexible immigration policy? Secondly, does the Department have the capacity to do what needs to be done between now and the end of December 2010?
*Answer: *Firstly, nothing has changed in terms of the country's immigration policy. This was a dispensation that was agreed upon in 2009 and it was for a year. It was not an open ended dispensation. So, nothing has changed, we are merely implementing what was agreed to in 2009.
So, I wouldn't say we are hardening our position, we are doing what we had agreed to because it would be tardy of us to ignore this matter since the dispensation was only in place for a year. What will I say when I am asked about why I did not act on this matter when the year had ended. You would then say I am irresponsible.
I think it is important that we implement our laws but we also have to bear in mind that we are an open society while ensuring the security of the country which is why we have said to the Zimbabweans that we do not want their citizens to have merely a piece of paper. We ...
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