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Rakuoane launches special permits campaign in SA

by Sunday Express
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Pascalinah Kabi

A delegation led by Home Affairs Minister Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane leaves for South Africa this morning on an intensive campaign aimed at ensuring Basotho living illegally in the neighbouring country register for the four-year Lesotho Special Permits (LSP) before the 30 June 2016 deadline.

Advocate Rakuoane launches the campaign at Heidedal Stadium in Bloemfontein this morning which would see LSP mobile offices being opened in various towns in the Free State, as well as Gauteng and Eastern Cape provinces.

South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba is expected to be in Bloemfontein to witness the launch, according to Home Affairs Principal Secretary (PS) Advocate Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela.

After realizing not many had come for the permits since the application process started on 1 March 2016, government decided to take the service across the border where many Lesotho citizens are living illegally, Advocate Sekonyela yesterday told the Sunday Express.

The LSP is going to allow Basotho to work, study, and do business in South Africa from 30 June 2016 to 30 April 2020.

But 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.

The South African Department of Home Affairs has granted amnesty to those who surrender their fraudulently acquired documents and will not deport Basotho without the necessary immigration papers until the end of this year. This is meant to allow those who qualify to apply for the LSP without fear of arrest and deportation.

But Basotho have not applied for the permits in numbers as expected, with many complaining they cannot afford the M970 they have to pay for the permits.

Others have complained about the online method of application, while having to come to Lesotho to apply for birth certificates, national identity documents and passports before seeking the LSP has also deterred many from applying for the dispensation.

By Monday last week, only 18 000 Basotho out of the estimated 500 000 illegally staying in South Africa had registered for the permit.

With the clock slowly ticking towards the deadline, and people still reluctant to apply, the government had decided to help its citizens, Advocate Sekonyela added.

“Tomorrow we are going to Heidedal Stadium in Bloemfontein where the two Home Affairs ministers, Advocate Rakuoane and Mr Gigaba, are expected to kick-start a series of campaigns to register Basotho in South Africa,” Advocate Sekonyela said.

He said Advocate Rakuoane would lead Home Affairs employees who are going to facilitate the application of birth certificates, IDs and passports for Basotho illegally staying in South Africa.

The same team would also register Basotho for the special permits even if they do not have all the necessary documents, the PS added.

“It is during this process that we will also note the challenges each individual is faced with and try to come up with solutions ahead of the closing date so that every Mosotho’s stay in South Africa is legalised by 30 June,” he said.

Advocate Sekonyela said 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. Soon after the Bloemfontein campaign, we are going to split into groups and register Basotho in their respective areas of residence in South Africa,” he said.

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