Basotho in dilemma over SA permits
Thousands of Basotho who were granted amnesty this month for illegally working and staying in south africa could be forced to break the law once again.
announcing the amnesty and special fouryear permits last month, home affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said the move was aimed at regularizing the stay of eligible Basotho in the neighbouring country.
The permits would be valid from 1 May 2016 to 30 april 2020 and applications for the special documents begin in February 2016. Mr Gigaba also said the deportation of undocumented Basotho had been stopped until the end of 2016.
“In october 2015, Cabinet approved the implementation of the Lesotho special Permit (LSP). The intention of the dispensation is to regularise the stay of Lesotho nationals currently residing illegally in south africa, some with fraudulently obtained documents, and others abusing the visa waiver between our two countries.
“The permit will assist greatly in ensuring that all persons in south africa are here on a lawful basis, with correct documentation, while supporting efforts to better manage labour flows from Southern African Development Community (sadc) states,” said Mr Gigaba.
“The special dispensation is for Lesotho nationals who are working, studying or running businesses in south africa without appropriate documentation, and have been in the country in such capacity before 30 september 2015.
“In the long run, this massive project will advance the goals of the national development Plan, precisely because Lesotho nationals with special permits will work lawfully, pay taxes, and contribute to the country’s economic development and growth, as well as that of their country. We trust that the project will promote greater cooperation on managing migration challenges between the two countries.”
The minister also emphasised that the permit would protect Basotho from exploitation and unnecessary harassment while in south africa.
“Basotho in the country will enjoy protection from unlawful labour practices, fraud and corruption. This we owe to the people of the sadc region and our neighbour, Lesotho, which historically enjoys close kinship ties with south africa and its people. It makes no business sense to sustain funding for deportations that can clearly be avoided, with Lesotho being among the four highest countries whose nationals south africa deports.
“To facilitate the smooth implementation of the special dispensation, we will grant a moratorium on deportations until 31 december 2016 to Lesotho nationals,” the minister announced.
“however, the moratorium will exclude persons with negative police clearance and those who have been released from prison after serving their sentences.
“an amnesty will be granted to Lesotho nationals who voluntarily surrender fraudulent permits or south african passports and Ids. I wish to take this opportunity to ask Basotho to come forward and surrender these documents to avoid imprisonment, and improve their stay in south africa”.
To qualify for the special permits, applicants must have valid passports or travel documents; be registered on the Lesotho national Population Register system; have police clearance from Lesotho and south africa; provide proof of employment and business registration and registration from an educational institution.
But according to Basotho who complied with the offer and returned home hassle-free at the border for the festive season, most of them need to be back in south africa by this weekend to save their jobs.
The migrants also expressed concern that their passports were inscribed with special red markers by south african immigration officials whose implications they did not know. on the Lesotho side, the migrants’ names