More than 100000 Lesotho nationals have applied to stay in South Africa for work, study or business, with more than 88 000 having completed the applications.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has called on those who have initiated their special permit applications but are yet to submit outstanding documents to do so by March 31 or face deportation.
“Basotho who produced Lesotho ID cards or birth certificates when applying, without valid passports and still with outstanding documents, must provide all supporting documents before (the deadline) to finalise the application,” Gigaba said.
“Amnesty and a moratorium not to deport will be lifted on March 31. Accordingly, those who have paid by December 31, 2016, but have not completed the application process by March 31, 2017, will be deported, just as we deport all other undocumented persons in the country.”
Gigaba called on employers to allow all Lesotho nationals who have applied for permits to continue working or attending school using their proof of application receipt until their permits have been issued.
The Lesotho special permit application process started in March last year and closed on December 31, after being extended twice.
The total number of online applications submitted by closing date was 127048 with 88 563 having completed the applications. More than 31000 permits have already been collected.
The benefits of the permit include providing amnesty to Lesotho nationals who obtained SA documents fraudulently, regularising Basotho living in the country undocumented and suspending deportation for those who live in South Africa undocumented by allowing them to apply for the permit.
Convicted criminals are barred from applying.
During the 2015-16 financial year, 33339 people were deported. Gigaba said the number was lower than expected due to financial constraints.
He said resources in the inspectorate unit dealing with immigration services were below what was required to execute its broad national mandate.
The minister has also condemned the “disturbing trend of anti-immigrant sentiment and misinformation”, including false messages recently circulating on social media that the department had called for the immediate deportation of undocumented migrants.
“We will not incite citizens to take the law into their hands when we have the legal means to control illegal migration and effect deportations as necessary.”