Cape Town — Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the Zimbabwe Special Permit programme is at its final stages of conclusion.
The Minister said this when he briefed the media to give an update on the programme.
He also used the briefing to announce developments around the Lesotho Dispensation Programme.
"The total number of applications made online reached 208 967.
"The number of applicants who submitted their applications and biometrics was 197 950," he said.
"With the exception of a small section of problem cases still to be resolved, the Zimbabwean Special Permit programme is at its final stages of conclusion," he said.
The Minister said a total of 197 790 Zimbabwe Special Permits were approved, with 160 applications still under review as a result of technical issues relating to the finalisation of applications, including the submission of incomplete applications, capturing biometrics and ensuring the required police clearances have been received.
Minister Gigaba said only 25 applications were rejected because applications had no previous Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) permits or had a negative police clearance.
He said of the 48 officials that the department had assigned to the project, there are currently only six attending to the remaining close-out issues.
VFS Global, the company that was appointed to oversee the process, has officially closed down all of its ZSP centres and the remaining permits will have to be collected at VFS regional offices.
"When we reported to the nation back in August 2015, we said permits that still needed to be collected from VFS Global centres which were in the region of 26 986. The number has come down to 11 499.
"VFS has put a tool in place methodically to track and manage all the remaining cases, ensuring they are finalised.
"It will continue issuing the permits until 31 January 2016, after which all uncollected permits will be returned to the department.
"We urge people to collect their permits."
Amnesty for illegal Lesotho nationals
In October 2015, Cabinet approved the implementation of the Lesotho Special Permit, with the intention of regularising the stay of Lesotho nationals currently residing in the country illegally.
The Lesotho Dispensation was introduced to assist Lesotho nationals who are working, studying or running businesses in SA without appropriate documentation.
This would enable Lesotho nationals to work with special permits to work lawfully, pay taxes and contribute to the country's economic development.
Minister Gigaba said the planning and design phase of the programme had commenced this month, and it would end on 31 January 2016.
He said the Lesotho Dispensation Programme was expected to commence on 1 February 2016.
"Formal announcements on the volumes and process to follow will be made once all consultations with the Lesotho authorities and relevant stakeholders have been completed.
"The special permit will be valid for four years, from 1 May 2016 to 30 April 2020," the Minister said.
He said that to facilitate a smooth implementation of the special dispensation, Lesotho nationals will be granted a grace period where a moratorium on deportations will be enforced until 31 December 2016.
"The moratorium will exclude persons with negative police clearance and those who have been released from prison after serving their sentences.
"An amnesty will be granted to Lesotho nationals who voluntarily surrender fraudulent permits or SA passports and IDs.
"I wish to take this opportunity to ask the Basotho to come forward and surrender these documents to avoid imprisonment and improve their stay in SA," he said.