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Call to extend SA permits deadline


’Marafaele Mohloboli

A South African organisation which fights for the rights of immigrants has lobbied government to extend the deadline for applications for the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP).

People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP) Director, Bernard Toyambi says he wrote to the Department of Home Affairs requesting an extension of the deadline for LSP applications from 30 June to 30 September 2016.

The permit is meant to regularise the stay of Lesotho nationals residing illegally in South Africa and allow them to work, study, and do business in the country from 30 June 2016 to 30 April 2020.

Mr Toyambi said PASSOP, which lobbies for the rights of asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants in South Africa, viewed the 30 June 2016 deadline as unrealistic since most Basotho illegally staying in SA were yet to register for the permit.

“We delivered a letter to Home Affairs on Wednesday and are still awaiting their response,” Mr Toyambi said.

“Awareness campaigns for the LSP were held at a very small scale. Most Basotho living in SA still don’t know much about the Lesotho Special Permit. So it would not be fair or practical to close the registration process on 30 June as scheduled.”

He also pointed out that the online registration process and “prohibitive” cost of M970 for the permit were some of the hurdles prospective applicants had failed to overcome.

“Some of them are not able to make the application online without assistance. On Thursday, I had to assist nine Lesotho nationals in filling the forms,” said Mr Toyambi.

“Added to that, the cost is also prohibitive for many. That is why we believe an extension of this process is imperative to ensure many Basotho living in South Africa benefit from it.”

He said some employers were also a stumbling block to the process as they were refusing to give the prospective applicants the requisite documentation.

“We condemn the unconstructive attitude of some employers who still refuse to issue letters of employment to their workers. We appeal to employers to issue the letters so Basotho in their employ can regularise their stay,” Mr Toyambi added.

However, Home Affairs Principal Secretary (PS) Advocate Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela said prospective applicants should make an effort to meet the deadline before calls for an extension could be made.

“We appreciate all the efforts being made by some people and organisations in assisting the registration process. But our plea is for more assistance for the applicants to meet the set date,” he said.

“I think Basotho should try to meet the set deadline before we attempt to negotiate. All the same, it would be nice if we were to get an extension. But we also need to be realistic and make an effort to comply with the set timeframe. I believe we can still make it.”

In a bid to assist applicants, Advocate Sekonyela said the ministry had embarked on a manual registration process with the information transferred to the online system.

SA’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba expressed concern over the apparent low interest in the LSP earlier this month. According to Lesotho’s National Register, there are between 400 000 and 500 000 Basotho based in South Africa, yet only 5 694 had registered at the time, hence Mr Gigaba’s disappointment.

Registration for the permit began on 1 March this year.




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