South African Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba has pleaded with his country’s schools and companies to allow Basotho to continue with their employment and education as long as they produce proof of a Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) application receipt.
Mr Gigaba’s plea comes against the background of what he described as the recent “disturbing trend of anti-immigrant sentiment” and even disinformation alleging that the SA Home Affairs had called for immediate deportations of undocumented migrants from some African countries.
The LSP which was first announced in January 2016, is aimed at enabling the estimated 400 000 Basotho residents in South Africa to legally reside, work and study in that country legally.
The permit is valid for four years. The initial application process began in March 2016 and was due to end in June 2016. There have been two extensions since then, culminating in the final extension to 31 December 2016.
The Department of Home Affairs indicated that there would be no further extensions beyond this grace period and Basotho living in South Africa illegally would be deported.
However, in his media briefing this week, Mr Gigaba said South Africa would not deport illegal Basotho resident in that country until March 31, 2017 when the amnesty and moratorium not to deport will be lifted.
Mr Gigaba said his country strongly believed that a regional approach to issues of migration would deliver a better deal for the continent.
“Push factors of illegal migration may best be addressed in cooperation with countries of the (SADC) region and Africa as a whole. Our engagement, for instance with the Kingdom of Lesotho, should be understood in this context of collaboration with SADC neighbours,” Mr Gigaba said.
He said the application process for LSP had run its course and that a total number of online applications submitted at VFS was 127 048 and that 88 563 Basotho had completed the application process.
“Focus is now on adjudication and processing of the completed applications. To date 31 019 permits have been collected. Applicants must phone VFS call-centre to check and collect their permits,” he said.
Mr Gigaba said Basotho who produced Lesotho identity (ID) cards or birth certificates when applying, without valid passports and still with outstanding documents, must provide all supporting documents before March 31, 2017 to finalise the application.
He said VFS would be in contact with applicants to assist as necessary and that this was only for those who paid their application fees by 31 December, 2016 and had proof of payments.
“In a nutshell, LSP benefits are to relieve pressure from the asylum seeker management process, provide amnesty to Basotho who obtained SA documents fraudulently, regularise undocumented Basotho residing in South Africa and suspend deportations of Basotho who reside in RSA undocumented by allowing them to apply for LSP, except those persons who are convicted criminals,” Mr Gigaba said.
He added: “Amnesty and moratorium not to deport will be lifted on 31 March 2016. Accordingly, those who have paid by 31 December, 2016 but have not completed the application process by 31 March, 2017 will be deported, just as we deport all other undocumented persons in the country.
“We request employers and schools to allow all Basotho nationals who have applied for the LSP permit to continue their employment and school attendance using their proof of application receipt until the LSP permit is issued.”
He condemned disturbing trend of anti-immigrant sentiment and even disinformation alleging that the SA Home Affairs had called for immediate deportations of undocumented migrants from some African countries.
He said that international migration was a global phenomenon that was increasingly prominent in political and social discourse in many countries.
Mr Gigaba said while foreign nations play an important role in bringing new knowledge, skills, networks and dynamism in South Africa, it was important for SA to prioritise its citizens when it comes to employment and other economic opportunities.
“And yet, many citizens, labour stakeholders and sister departments are concerned that many businesses don’t want to hire South African workers, despite the millions of work-seekers who are willing and able,” he said, adding “in many quarters, this has led to the belief that businesses exploit migrants to lower wages and conditions, which is irresponsible, immoral and illegal.”
He said it was these types of practices and assumptions that had led to heightened social tensions in communities between South Africans and migrants, and that that could only cause harm.