South Africa has extended the closing date for Lesotho Special Permits applications to allow more people to apply for the four-year dispensation.
The initial deadline for applications was 30 June 2016, but has now been extended by three months to 30 September.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced the deadline extension yesterday, saying this was due to apathy by the intended beneficiaries.
The LSP is going to allow Basotho to work, study, and do business in South Africa until 31 December 2019.
To qualify for the permits, applicants must have a valid passport, be on the Lesotho National Population Register, have police clearance from Lesotho and South Africa, and provide proof of employment, business registration and admission from an educational institution. Registration for the permits started on 1 March this year, but by Monday this week, the South African Home Affairs department announced only 40 000 applications had been received when about 400000 were expected.
Basotho have complained about the M970 they have to pay for the permits, which they say is too much for them, while others are not happy with the online method of application and the requirements for one to qualify.
Announcing the extension, Mr Gigaba said in a statement: “The request for an extension was among the recommendations made at the consultation of Director-Generals of Home Affairs held in Maseru on 1 June 2016 to assess progress on the implementation of the LSP. The South African and Basotho delegations were led by Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseli Apleni and Home Affairs Principal Secretary Habokhethoe Sekonyela, respectively.
“The extension to the end of September will assist in mitigating challenges making it difficult for people to seize the opportunity to regularise their stay in South Africa, but we urge people to apply without any further delay.”
Mr Gigaba cited several reasons why many Basotho have not come forward to apply for the permits.
“Not all Lesotho citizens have Lesotho identity documents. Some applicants are battling to provide the required documents while others fear arrest relating to the amnesty process. Access and connectivity for applicants have also posed a challenge since registration is online,” Mr Gigaba noted.
“Joint public outreach programmes are scaled-up to ensure applicants are informed and assisted to apply. All necessary steps are being taken to attend to these challenges to ensure people are assisted to apply. The Lesotho Government has deployed staff at various centres for birth registration and ID enrolment. The Lesotho National Identity and Civil Registry currently operates seven days a week to facilitate the LSP process for its nationals. VFS Global will accept walk-in applications at its centres.”
The minister added Lesotho authorities would continue engaging their nationals on the need to register for the permits.
Additional application desks are being provided in Lesotho, at the borders and other strategic places, while a mobile centre at Maseru Mall is already processing the permits.
The LSP is issued under special dispensation for Lesotho nationals who work, study or do business in South Africa and had been in the country in such capacity before 30 September 2015.
For smooth facilitation, a moratorium on deportations was granted until 31 December 2016 on condition Basotho surrender all fraudulently acquired documents, including fraudulent permits, South African passports and IDs. Applicants receive amnesty letters as proof.
“The LSP will strengthen close kinship ties South Africa and Lesotho share while allowing for Lesotho nationals to live in South Africa legally. Those with appropriate documents will contribute to the two countries’ economic development and growth, including through taxes in South Africa and remittances back home,” Mr Gigaba said.
Advocate Sekonyela early this month said the Lesotho government would do everything in its power to ensure every Mosotho working, staying or running business in South Africa enjoys LSP benefits.
Setting up mobile offices in South Africa is one of government’s efforts to bring services to the people and ensure thousands of its citizens illegally staying in South Africa apply for the special permits, he emphasized.
“Having a special permit will open many doors for every Mosotho staying in South Africa and as government, we will not sit back and watch as our people miss this opportunity to legalise their stay in South Africa.
“It is the responsibility of our government to ensure these people get the special permits,” he said.