Setback for SA special permits

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Malusi Gigaba

SA Minister of Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba

Pascalinah Kabi

THE South African government has postponed the launch of the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) application process to 1 March 2016 citing technical challenges in activating the system.

The application process was initially set to commence on 1 February 2016. However, South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced during a press conference on Friday that they were still carrying out “system tests” over the course of this month.

“Given connectivity challenges experienced, it is unlikely that online application will be submitted on February 1 2016 as originally planned. We therefore are looking at March 1, 2016,” he said.

“Testing of systems will continue between 1 and 29 February 2016 effectively to enable online verification of Basotho nationals before LSP permits are processed and accordingly issued.

“Areas to be tested include online application, validation of Lesotho’s National Population Register (NPR) and biometric data with Lesotho, offline application and information security of entire application.”

He said the LSPs were meant to regularise the stay of Lesotho nationals currently residing illegally in South Africa, adding that they would be valid for four years and expire in 2019.

“It (LSP) is meant to document Lesotho nationals who are working, studying or running businesses in South Africa without appropriate documentation,” Mr Gigaba said.

He said they had learnt from their Lesotho counterparts that at least 400 000 Basotho resided in South Africa.

“According to the authorities in Lesotho, during the past holidays, there was an increase in the number of people who returned home to register (for LSP), which goes to show the excitement this has generated,” Mr Gigaba said.

“This is how the Basotho authorities have come to the current estimate that around 400 000 to 500 000 Basotho nationals reside in South Africa today.”

The minister said while the application date had been postponed, they expected to launch a number of LSP-related processes on Monday this week.

“Activities to go-live on 1 February 2016 cover the launch of an online web page which will provide information on the LSP, outline the application process and inform prospective applicants when the online form will be ready for completion. It will also update applicants on appointment dates,” he said.

“Opening of a call centre: There will be 30 call centre agents taking calls from applicants and assisting with the process as well as requirements.

“Intensifying outreach programmes: Especially targeted at prospective applicants, including the many Basotho nationals in domestic services.”

Mr Gigaba said by 7 March 2016, his ministry would have activated the submission of online applications and launched online appointments.

“The closing date for in-person applications will be 30 June 2016,” he said.

South Africa, the minister said, had granted a moratorium on deportations until 31 December 2016.

“This will assist Lesotho nationals to apply in a climate that is conducive,” he said.

“An amnesty has also been extended to Lesotho nationals willing to surrender fraudulent permits or SA passports and IDs. Amnesty letters will be issued to applicants as proof.

“Those who qualify are encouraged to adhere to amnesty conditions, to fast-track their applications. People will be able to apply online, even at home.”

To qualify for the special permits, applicants must have a valid passport or travel document, be registered on the Lesotho National Population Register system, have police clearance from Lesotho and South Africa, provide proof of employment and business registration and registration from an educational institution.

Mr Gigaba added that they had agreed with the Lesotho government on a framework for Basotho children going to school in South Africa.  “On a related matter, we have also agreed on easing movement for Basotho children coming to South Africa to enable them to attend school every morning without difficulty,” he said.

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