South Africa’s government placed a moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabwean immigrants while it assesses the applications of those who sought to legalize their status in the country.
A decade of political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe caused an estimated 1.5 million of its citizens to seek sanctuary in South Africa, according to the University of Witwatersrand’s Forced Migration Studies Program. South Africa’s government gave those who were in the country illegally until the end of the last year to apply for residency.
By the time the deadline expired, 275,762 applications were submitted, of which 42,779 have been approved, the Department of Home Affairs said in an e-mailed statement today.
It is “our conviction that the majority of Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa want to comply with our immigration regulations with a view to living productive lives without fear of deportation,” Mkuseli Apleni, the department’s director-general, said in the statement. “We will not be deporting any undocumented Zimbabwean nationals until we have completed the processing of all applications.”
South Africa’s attempt to document foreign nationals may not reverse an influx of immigrants from Zimbabwe, where the economy shrank by more than half in the decade through 2009, before returning to growth last year.
“Many Zimbabweans just don’t have livelihoods to go back to,” said Brian Raftopolous, the Cape Town-based director of research at the Solidarity Peace Trust, a church-backed human rights group. “Many will try and stay by whatever means, or come back if they are deported.”