A GWANDA woman has been banned from entering South Africa for one year following a mistake by the neighbouring country’s immigration officials who erroneously concluded that she had overstayed by four days.
Evidence Dube — who buys clothes for resale in Zimbabwe through clothing retailer Angel — is a regular visitor to South Africa, especially on weekends, when she is not at work. She said she was disappointed by the ban as she had done nothing wrong.
According to Dube, an immigration official failed to endorse a visitor’s permit in her passport on Thursday last week indicating the number of days she was allowed to be in South Africa. When she returned on Sunday, she was informed that she had overstayed by four days resulting in the ban.
Dube’s passport shows that she entered South Africa on June 20 and was issued with a visitor’s permit valid until July 2.
“I then left South Africa on June 22 having spent three days. I went back again on June 27 while the visitors’ permit was still valid and came back to Zimbabwe after three days,” she said.
“On Thursday July 3, I visited South Africa and sought a five-day visitor’s permit, but the officer notified me that their system indicated I could only be allowed four days meaning l was supposed to be back on Sunday.”
When she arrived on Sunday morning, Dube said she was then told that she had overstayed by four days after officials said her permit had expired on July 2 despite her passport showing she had entered South Africa on July 3.
Following an inquiry, Dube said immigration officials discovered that they had made a mistake, but said since the ban had been endorsed on the passport, it was irreversible.
Dube returned to South Africa on Monday where she met a senior immigration official identified as Alupfunwi Makhado, who also conceded the mistake, but she was told that the system was irreversible and advised to launch an appeal with the Overstaying Appeals Committee boss.
“I am saddened by what happened as l was lawfully in South Africa, but a mistake by one official has seen me being banned from entering that country. I lodged an appeal with the committee on Monday, but I have not received a response yet,” Dube said.
South Africa recently announced new immigration laws that will see Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals who overstay being banned from entering the neighbouring country as it tightens its immigration regime.
All along, those who overstayed were allowed to re-enter South Africa and apply for permits and visas after being made to pay fines.
However, starting in June, those who overstay their allocated time in South Africa would be banned for a period ranging from one to five years.
First-time offenders who overstay for less than 30 days would be banned from entering South Africa for one year, while second-time offenders who overstay by the same period would get a two-year ban and those that overstay for a period exceeding 30 days are banned for five years.
Zimbabwean David Henderson was declared an undesirable person after leaving South Africa, where he has lived for seven years, to travel to Zimbabwe on May 28 while his wife and two young sons remained in South Africa.
Henderson’s South African wife, Cherene Delorie, took Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba and director-general Mkuseli Apleni to court and the Western Cape High Court ordered that he be allowed to re-enter the country.