A top official of South Africa's Department of Home Affairs on Friday declared success in a months-long program to document the estimated two million Zimbabweans living in the country as a registration deadline at midnight December 31 loomed hours away.
Home Affairs Department Director General Mkuseli Apleni said authorities did everything they could to accommodate every Zimbabwean prepared to legalize his or her residency status, VOA Studio 7 correspondent Benedict Nhlapho reported from Johannesburg.
Though Zimbabweans were still lining up at Home Affairs offices around the country on Friday, most queues had disappeared by afternoon as staff accepted applications. Many Zimbabweans will complete their applications with missing documentation in early 2011, though Apleni said most applications should be processed by April or so.
Many Zimbabweans in South Africa praised authorities there for showing efficiency and flexibility in the documentation process - and had harsh words for their own government’s lackluster response, especially its refusal of technical assistance from Pretoria.
Zimbabwean Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone confirmed that Harare refused an offer of access to advanced printing and binding equipment to make passports, which thousands of Zimbabweans need to complete their residency applications.
Makone said Harare cited security issues in its decision not to accept Pretoria's offer - but added that she did not know what security risks were perceived by Harare.
She told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that she personally regreted the s decision because using the South African equipment would have helped many Zimbabweans.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Programs Manager Pedzisai Ruhanya said he believes the decision not to accept South Africa's offer of assistance making passports came not from the government but President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, which fears the consequences if Zimbabweans in South Africa can readily travel home to vote in elections.