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Cablegate: South African Visa Applications From Zimbabwe -

VZCZCXRO7194
RR RUEHDU RUEHJO
DE RUEHSB #0928 2901334
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161334Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3569
INFO RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 5560
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 0563
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 0121
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 0539
RUEAHLC/HOMELAND SECURITY CENTER WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS HARARE 000928

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR CA/FPP AND AF/S B. WALCH
DEPT PLEASE PASS TO KCC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CMGT CVIS SF SMIG ZI
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICAN VISA APPLICATIONS FROM ZIMBABWE -
STAGGERING

1. (SBU) According to First Secretary Consul Mshiyeni
Dennis Nzuza, the South African Embassy in Harare processes
approximately 360,000 Zimbabwean visa applications yearly.
In a meeting with post's consul, Nzuza explained the South
African Consular Section consisted of 5 adjudicating officers
and 26 local employees, and accepted approximately 1000
applications from Zimbabweans queuing at the embassy each
day. In addition, the section receives an additional 1000
applications daily from various courier services. Nzuza said
their approval rate was over 90 percent, about 324,000/year,
in a 7-10 day turn-around process that included a namecheck
for prior overstays. He characterized the vast majority of
Zimbabwean applicants as economic migrants, and acknowledged
the large number of applications reflected a SAG relaxation
of visa requirements over the past two years. Describing the
South African visa adjudication process as a paper process
without any biometric data collection (photo or
fingerprints), he said fraudulent documents were a huge issue
and estimated that 30 percent of the Zimbabwean passports he
sees contain false biographical information.

2. (SBU) Zimbabwe is South Africa's only neighboring
country which does not have a free visa policy. Due to
Zimbabwe's self-destructive political and economic policies,
unemployment is well over 90 percent which continues to fuel
a tidal wave of emigration, both legal and clandestine.
Although the International Organization for Migration claims
an average of 3,900 illegal Zimbabweans are deported each
week, Nzuza estimated that the Zimbabwean population in South
Africa continues to grow by 300,000/year. While the sheer
number of Zimbabweans has stressed the South African
infrastructure, created "quasi-refugee" camps deplored by
numerous human rights groups, and created internal South
African social upheaval, the SAG has been steady in its
reluctance to grant refugee status to the Zimbabweans, nor
facilitate some sort of legal status. At the heart of the
SAG's dilemma is that by acknowledging refugee or
humanitarian migrant status to the Zimbabweans, the SAG would
also be acknowledging the failed policies of the government
it supports in Zimbabwe.

3. (SBU) Putting the situation in practical terms, Nzuza
lamented his workload, comparing the South Africa-Zimbabwe
border to the U.S.-Mexico border. Although South Africa
relaxed its Zimbabwean visa requirements following a meeting
of the two Ministers of Home Affairs in Harare in May 2007,
he said the decision was "political" and that South Africa
was far from removing the Zimbabwe visa requirement as
envisioned by the SADC Protocol for the Facilitated Movement
of Persons. Acknowledging that South Africans have no visa
requirement to enter Zimbabwe and that the GOZ has been
calling for the same from the SAG, Nzuza said his
government's policy on the subject has been steady: "Get
your house in order first, then we'll discuss removal of
visas." When asked to specify, he said Zimbabwe would have
to stabilize its political, economic, and border security
issues before the removal of the visa requirement was
realistic.

4. (SBU) Comment: As SADC leader, South Africa's vision of
a Free Travel/Movement Zone within the SADC region is in
direct conflict with its experience with the Zimbabwean
Border. It cannot afford to lift Zimbabwean travel
restrictions without running the risk of opening the country
to an even larger wave of migrants and domestic protest.
While the SAG has heretofore been reluctant to criticize the
policies of the Mugabe government, the scale of Zimbabwean
emigration will certainly strain this policy for its new
President.
DHANANI

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