SA special permits deadline looms
. . . as Basotho illegally staying in neighbouring country face deportation
THE South African and Lesotho governments have teamed up as part of efforts to ensure Basotho staying illegally in South Africa finalise applications for the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) to avoid looming deportations after the 31 December deadline.
The LSP which was first announced in January 2016, is aimed at enabling the estimated 400 000 Basotho residents in South Africa to legally reside, work and study in that country.
The initial application process for the four-year permits began in March 2016 and was due to end in June 2016. There have been two extensions since then, culminating in the final extension to 31 December 2016.
To date, only 177 728 Basotho have applied and 83 873 of them have made application payments of M970 each and scheduled appointments at LSP centres near them. 43 000 of these have already received their permits.
The Department of Home Affairs has indicated that there would be no further extensions beyond this grace period and Basotho living in South Africa illegally would be deported.
Lesotho Home Affairs Principal Secretary, Advocate Borenahabokhethe Sekonyela and his South African counterpart, Home Affairs Director-General Mkuseni Apleni this past week visited the Maputsoe and Maseru border posts where they announced the extension of working hours for LSP staff at the six ports of entries namely, Maseru, Maputsoe, Qacha’s Nek, Tele Bridge, Van Rooyens Heck and Fouriesburg.
In his keynote address, Mr Apleni said this was the last opportunity for Basotho to apply and legalise their stay in South Africa to avoid deportation.
“The two governments of South Africa and Lesotho have since March made great strides in ensuring that Basotho get their special permits,” Mr Apleni said during the visit to inspect whether LSP applicants were being assisted effectively without any obstacles.
“Between now and December 31, extra effort will be made to encourage more people to apply as we believe even those who were not excused from their jobs before will now have the opportunity while coming home for the Christmas holidays.
“This final outreach has been scheduled at six ports of entry in the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces whereby our teams will be stationed to collect applications. We trust that the efforts will broaden access to special permits for Basotho as this is the last chance and no mercy shall be shown thereafter, my plea to all Basotho intending to continue working or studying in South Africa is that they should ensure they have applied before the deadline,” he said.
He said that they had deployed immigration assistants at the ports of entry to offer a 24-hour service to prospective LSP applicants.
Mr Apleni also said those who applied and paid before the 31 December deadline would be given the opportunity to finalise their documentation from January till March 2017.
“From January 1 next year, all those who have paid but have not completed the application process by the end of March will face deportation and this goes for those who did not make any attempt to regularise their stay in South Africa.
“We have the names of those who have filled the forms but have not completed the process. Their names will be referred to the ports of entry for listing. The amnesty and the moratorium not to deport them will be lifted on March 31.
“Those who have not completed the application process will be refunded and deportations will kick-in for those illegally staying in South Africa,” he said.
Besides the LSP border centres, there are also 11 other centres for LSP applications within South Africa in Johannesburg (2), Bloemfontein, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg, Kimberly, Polokwane, Nelspruit and George.
For his part, Adv Sekonyela said Basotho should take advantage of the opportunity to regularise their stay in South Africa to avoid “any consequences and suffering”.
“We have travelled across South Africa and witnessed the suffering of Basotho working in South Africa illegally and I hope they grasp this opportunity of a lifetime for this is the last chance,” Adv Sekonyela said.
He said the initiative also contributed towards an initiative in collaboration with “our South African counterparts where passports will no longer be used to cross the border but just a fingerprints scan and we hope this will start operating in the next year or two”.