Human rights activists are slamming the South African government for scheduling resumption of deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans after a December 31 deadline for immigration compliance, saying the move was based on a false belief conditions in Zimbabwe have improved sufficiently in political and especially economic terms to allow for large-scale repatriation.
Zimbabweans living in the country under an uncertain status have applauded the Pretoria government for promising to grant them permits to work, run businesses or study in South Africa. But the decision to resume deportations next January has been widely criticized.
South African activist Braam Hanekom of the People Against Suffering Suppression Oppression and Poverty or Pasop said branding Zimbabweans as potential candidates for deportation could ignite another wave of xenophobic attacks against them.
"An announcement of this nature can lead to people thinking that Zimbabweans do not have a right to be hear and lead communities to go on the witch hunt," Hanekom said.
Chairman Solomon Chikowero of the Zimbabwe Diaspora Movement said that while the decision to give Zimbabweans proper permits is welcome, he is worried those working in the informal sector will not qualify for work permits, leaving them subject to deportation at any time.
Under the new arrangement, the Zimbabwean government has agreed to issue all of its undocumented nationals in South Africa with proper documents, laying the groundwork for Pretoria to provide them with work, business and study permits. But some worry that the Zimbabwean government does not have the capacity to provide documents to the many thousands who need them in the next three months.
South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma gave assurances Friday that government was not planning random deportations.