Zimbabweans queued by the thousands on Thursday at offices of the South African Department of Home Affairs in an eleventh-hour bid to file applications for four-year work, study and business residency permits before a Friday deadline expires.
Meanwhile, a senior official in the South African Department of Home Affairs confirmed to VOA that South Africa offered technical assistance to Harare to speed up production of passports to meet heavy demand by Zimbabweans in South Africa. But Zimbabwean officials only took up an offer of office space in Pretoria and Cape Town, he said.
South African Home Affairs Department Director General Mkuseli Apleni declined to say whether his office offered Harare use of advanced passport-making equipment.
But Zimbabwean Co-Minister of Home Affairs Theresa Makone said the government in Harare had declined the offer of access to state-of-the art passport-making equipment to speed up the documentation program. She said the government made the decision on security grounds - but added she had not been able to obtain a clear explanation.
The equipment was capable of turning out around 4,000 passports a day in comparison to the Zimbabwean government capacity of just 500 documents a day.
Makone said she personally regretted Harare's decision not to avail itself of the offer of access to technology, as this would affect many Zimbabweans in South Africa.
With just about 24 hours left for Zimbabweans in South Africa to regularize their resident status or at least get a start on that task by submitting information to authorities, many expatriates were flocking to immigration offices.
For last minute tips on meeting the deadline at midnight Friday, reporter Tatenda Gumbo spoke with Gabriel Shumba, Director of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, and Jacob Mamabolo of the permit regularization project.
Mamabolo says Zimbabweans must remember that the deadline only concerns permit applications, and that they can complete their application at a later date.