Pretoria - Despite requests for an extension of the Lesotho Special Permit (LSP) by members of the Basotho community living in South Africa, the home affairs department on Friday said the application phase under the special dispensation will not be extended again.
Some Lesotho nationals and their civic society groups appealed to Pretoria authorities to extend the LSP application period, citing the low numbers of Basotho who have so far applied before the project closes on September 30.
“We have already granted a three month extension [in June] which comes to an end on September 30, 2016. We believe that we have granted ample time for Lesotho nationals to regularise their stay in South Africa. To this end, there will be no extension granted further,” said Mayihlome Tshwete, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s spokesperson.
Tshwete said the figure of almost 48 000 already approved permits under the LSP was very significant. Around 400 000 Basotho were believed to be living in South Africa when the LSP was launched.
“It should be noted that the 400 000 figure was an estimation that was referred prior to the introduction of the Lesotho Special Permit. We welcome the latest figure of 47 820 completed applications. It’s an indication of Lesotho nationals residing in South Africa who have now regularised their sojourn. This could have been 47 820 undocumented foreign nationals living in South Africa,” said Tshwete in a written response to African News Agency.
“It is in our best interest to document every person living in the country. In addition, due to birth registration and ID application processes in Lesotho, many nationals who do not reflect on the country’s national population register were not able to apply for the LSP.”
Tshwete said South Africa had granted “ample time for Lesotho nationals to regularise their stay in South Africa”. To that end, “there will be no extension granted further”.
He said the LSP had progressed well with both Governments have conducted extensive outreach campaigns and promoted this project fully.
“What heartens us, also, is the fact that through this process, over 600 000 Lesotho nationals have been captured in the Lesotho national population register,” he said.
On Friday, VFS Global chief operations officer for South Africa Jiten Vyas said a significant increase is now being witnessed in online applications as the programme wraps up.
Vyas said the LSP project was encountered some problems, which included the rampant lack of requisite documents by the Basotho based in South Africa.
“[There is] lack of Lesotho ID cards for applicants who stay in South Africa. A lot of Lesotho nationals have recently applied for the Lesotho ID and are yet to receive them. Only once they have received their ID cards will they start applying for LSP. Also a large amount of Lesotho Nationals are yet to apply for the Lesotho ID,” said Vyas.
“Employers were also reluctant to provide employment letters or release their worker to take time off to go and apply.”
He said VFS Global, the visa application contractor appointed by the department of home affairs, had also received the requests for an extension and that feedback had been conveyed to the department.
By Friday, 80 570 applications had been made online while only 48 622 were made at VFS offices.
This week, hundreds of undocumented Basotho have been in a last minute rush to VFS offices in a bid to beat the September 30 cut-off date.
Refiloe Mehlomakulu of the Basotho civic society group, Mokorotlo oa Basotho Forum, said throngs of her countrymen have not had the chance to regularise their stay because they lack supporting documents required.
“Our people were not reluctant to apply but the issues centred on the lack of requisite documents. Basotho nationals did not have birth certificates and identity documents, ours is a new system,” said Mehlomakulu.
“Many have been in South Africa for around 10 years without documentation. Now that they have to go back home and apply for birth certificates, it’s a lengthy process because you’re required to go to your chief or bring your baptismal certificate. That is what caused the delays in the response.”
South African authorities have already bent over backwards, allowing the Lesotho government to establish offices at the visa facilitation centres to enable the Basotho who did not have identity cards and passports to apply without making the trip to Maseru.
Earlier this month, Gigaba urged the Basotho to regularise their stay before the deadline.
In June, Gigaba acceded to a request by the Lesotho authorities to extend the closing date of applications for the LSP in a bid to allow more people to apply. The initial closing date was June 30 but was moved by three months to September 30.