David Hlabane of Home Affairs says: “For children born in South Africa and have never travelled out of South Africa, the [Zimbabwean] parent should visit a VFS office in the country to apply for a temporary residence visa … Our policy does not allow them to change status from visitors to any visa while still in South Africa. This also applies to the SA-born child who left SA and re-entered SA on a visitor’s visa.”
Since 2008, Melody* has been living and working in South Africa. She is legally in the country with a Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), but her two children need legal status. The South African authorities say she has to return to Zimbabwe in order to apply for what is known as an “accompanying visa” for her children.
She is a domestic worker and it will be very expensive for her. It may also mean she has to break up her family, at least temporarily. She might even risk losing her job altogether as she only gets three-weeks annual leave in December.
“It takes six to eight weeks for the visas to be processed. I cannot leave my children in Zimbabwe,” she says.
Melody’s two-year-old was born in South Africa but he accompanied her to Zimbabwe on her annual leave last year. Her seven-year-old was born in Zimbabwe and she has applied for his birth certificate and passport at the Zimbabwean Consulate in Cape Town, a costly and bureaucratic process in itself.
David Hlabane, media manager at the Department of Home Affairs, confirmed that Melody must apply through the South African Embassy in Zimbabwe.
On 30 January 2019, Melody collected her ZEP at the Cape Town VFS (visa services) office, and she was told she needed to go to Zimbabwe to apply for an accompanying visa for her children. She said there were many parents at VFS in the same situation.
Tendai Bhiza of PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty) said, “Where will she get the money to go back to Zimbabwe? Her children will miss school lessons … As long as the children are in the country they should be allowed to apply for the visas within South Africa. They have the right to their families.”
* Although Melody’s real name is known to GroundUp and Home Affairs, she asked us to use a pseudonym to protect the identity of her children who are at school.
Correction: The birth circumstances of Melody’s two and seven-year-old were reversed in error when the story was initially published. It has been corrected: her two-year-old was born in South Africa; her seven-year-old was born in Zimbabwe.