South African and Zimbabwean officials confirm that deportations of Zimbabweans living illegally in South Africa have resumed following a moratorium called to allow those living there illegally to seek residency permits, saying the law is now being enforced.
Reports said South African immigration authorities deported some 600 Zimbabweans to their homeland this week, signaling an end to the moratorium.
South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela said Thursday that Pretoria was not targeting Zimbabweans, but that officials were merely applying immigration laws. It is estimated that at least 1.5 million Zimbabweans are living in South Africa, but only about a quarter of a million filed applications for residency permits by the end of 2010.
Zimbabwean Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone said both governments worked hard to regularize the status of Zimbabweans in South Africa, but that relatively few sought to regularize their status and authorities have exhausted their options.
During the documentation period some 275,000 Zimbabweans sought permits to live, work and operate businesses in South Africa.
Members of the Zimbabwean Stakeholders Forum in South Africa said the resumption of deportations came as a surprise. Gabriel Shumba of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum said he and colleagues were told that they would be informed before the moratorium ended.
Elsewhere, deserters from the Zimbabwean National Army living in South Africa are urging soldiers at home to resist being deployed against citizens in the national elections which are generally expected to be held some time next year.
Former Zimbabwean troops told VOA reporter Benedict Nhlapho they fled the service so they would not have to take action against civilians.