government bans arrest of IMmigraNTS

Ido Lekota and Sapa

Ido Lekota and Sapa

The government has announced a special dispensation that has put a moratorium on the arrest and deportation of Zimbabweans who are in the country illegally.

In terms of the dispensation, Zimbabwean nationals are expected to go to Home Affairs offices where they will be taken through some tests to proof their nationality.

They will then be given the necessary documentation allowing them free movement in the country. "We thought we should take some measures to assist the Zimbabwean government because we realise that the deportation system does not work," Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told the media in Johannesburg yesterday.

She said the decision was taken in view of the new developments in Zimbabwe, where there is now a government of national unity.

Deputy Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said eventually, the move could see some Zimbabweans returning home voluntarily, while others would prefer commuting between the two neighbouring countries.

In a move to attract rare skills into the country, government has also introduced a 90- day visa waive for several SADC countries. Home Affairs has also improved on the time taken to issue temporary and permanent permits. It now takes four days instead of 15 days.

Mapisa-Nqakula also emphasised that the government did not have a policy of building refugee camps. "We only have reception centres for refugee and asylum seekers because we believe in the policy of integration into communities."

She also indicated that her department had improved the handling of asylum seekers. She said a new refugee-asylum seekers' reception centre would be opened in Pretoria next week. She also revealed that South Africa has also developed a new, more secure passport document to be launched next week. The details in the passport are laser engraved, making it difficult to be forged.

l Meanwhile, Mapisa-Nqakula has welcomed the decision by the Cape high court to dismiss an urgent application by IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi for the Dalai Lama to be granted a visa to visit South Africa.

Yesterday the court ruled that the matter was not urgent since the 2010 World Cup-related peace conference, for which the Dalai Lama had been invited, had been cancelled.

l Yesterday The Times reported that the Dalai Lama had indeed lodged an application for a visa with the SA High Commissioner in India. The paper quoted the Dalai Lama representative as saying the application was denied.