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Basotho studying in SA stranded


…as New South African law catches parents and government by surprise

Pascalinah Kabi

Lesotho has asked South Africa to delay implementing immigration laws that now require Basotho to have police clearance from both countries when applying for study permits.

The regulations were effected this month and have since left thousands of Basotho students stranded.

Without the permits, Lesotho students cannot resume their education in the neighbouring country.

In the past, Basotho only needed Lesotho police clearance, medical aid, passports and admission letters when applying for South African study permits.

But under the new law, they now also need South African police clearance, which is only said to be done in Pretoria and takes approximately six weeks.

Education and Training Minister Mahali Phamotse on Thursday said government was negotiating with South African authorities to temporarily set aside the demand for police clearance to allow Basotho students to resume their studies in that country.

“It has since come to our attention that there are new changes set by the South African government when one is applying for a study permit,” Dr Phamotse said.

“Basotho students only needed Lesotho police clearance to apply for a study permit but beginning this year, they also need South African police clearance.

“But we have learnt that the students are encountering problems as South Africa takes not less than six weeks to process police clearances and that these are only applied for and processed in Pretoria.

“We have since received reports that this has caused a lot of confusion among students and parents.

“As government, through ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Home Affairs and Education and Training, we are currently in negotiations with our counterparts in South Africa to see how best this can be solved.

“Through these negotiations, we are asking the South African government to effect the new requirements in January 2017 because we didn’t know about them until now when schools reopened.”

The minister added government was aware that both primary and high schools had already reopened while higher learning institutions resume studies next month.

Dr Phamotse asked students, parents and the nation at large to stay calm as the concerned government departments deal with the issue.

She further stressed Basotho should understand the need to respect the laws of South Africa.

“The government of Lesotho is only pleading with South Africa to effect this law in January 2017,” the minister said.

“The nation will be regularly briefed on this matter which is jeopardizing the education of Basotho children studying in SA.”

There was no immediate comment from the South African government on the issue.

However, South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba in November last year announced special permits aimed at regularizing the stay of eligible Basotho in the neighbouring country.

The minister said the permits would be valid from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2020 and applications for the special documents were to 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,” Mr Gigaba said.

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, the minister added.

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