14 October 2016                                                  

The Department of Home Affairs has received a request from the Kingdom of Lesotho for more time for Basotho to apply for SA-issued Lesotho Special Permits.

A total of 102 316 Lesotho nationals submitted online applications. Of these, 64 427 applicants made the necessary payment and scheduled appointments at VFS.

Having looked at the request for an extension, and after further consultations with Lesotho, we have come to the determination it would be best to grant more time in the interest of all parties concerned.

The LSP Technical Committee, led by our Director-General, Mkuseli Apleni and the Lesotho Principal Secretary of Home Affairs, Advocate Sekonyela met again this morning, to monitor progress. They reiterated the commitment of the two countries to treat the project as a high priority.

Among the major constraints identified was access to online services, connectivity, low support by employers for their Basotho employees and assistance from schools where children from Lesotho study.

Employers and school principals are encouraged to provide the requisite letters, without fear, as there will be no consequences for them during the amnesty period.

The closing date for applications is now 31 December 2016. This goes for online applications and ‘walk-in’ applications to be made at VFS centres and mobile units.

This extension applies to all LSP applications and payments, meaning that people must have applied and paid by 31 December 2016 to avoid consequences. Beyond this date, money will be refunded where the application process is incomplete, and deportations will also kick-in for those found in the country without enabling documents that legalise their stay.

Lesotho nationals who have applied should phone the VFS call-centre to check if their permits are ready for collection, and duly collect them. Basotho who produced Lesotho ID cards when applying, without valid passports, are to provide their passports latest 31 December 2016.

From 1 January 2017, all those who have paid but have not completed the application process by end March 2017 will face deportation. This goes also for those who did not make any attempt to regularise their stay in South Africa.

We have the names of those who have filled the forms but still have not completed the process. Their names will be referred to the Ports of Entry, for listing. The amnesty and the moratorium not to deport will be lifted on 31 March 2017.

Between now and end of December, extra effort will be made to encourage more people to apply, to complete the process, and to collect their special permits. Our teams will go out to where people are, and also streamline the application and payment process to make it easier for the applicants.

From 1 to 30 November 2016, our teams, and eight mobile units from VFS, will go out to the provinces to assist people who cannot travel to VFS centres. In December 2016, the teams will focus on the main ports of entry. In this regard a detailed schedule will be provided by the department.

Applicants can now deposit their payment at any branch of the Standard Bank, using their Lesotho ID numbers as the reference number. The slip must be kept and presented as proof of payment when visiting the VFS centre to do the biometrics and complete the process, speedily.

For better deployment of resources, Basotho are advised to visit Home Affairs offices to confirm their readiness to apply. This is for registration of interest, not for the actual application for LSP. Home Affairs offices will take their names and compile lists, to inform smart deployment of mobile units and additional resources. Home Affairs offices open even on Saturdays.

Lesotho authorities will continue providing more services for Basotho to get Lesotho birth certificates and ID cards, so they can apply for the SA-issued special permits.

We trust that the extension up to 31 December 2016 will broaden access to the special permit for Basotho who are in the country for work, business or study. The prospect of getting a South African special permit promotes the goal of Lesotho to have their citizens on the Lesotho national population register. This is a building-block for the frequent traveller programme. It will further assist South Africa to know who is in the country and for what purpose.

My plea to all Basotho intending to continue working, doing business, or studying in South Africa, is that they should ensure they have applied for special permits before the project is closed, the last day being the 31st of December 2016.

Thank you.

For media enquiries contact Thabo Mokgola on 060 962 4982 or Mayihlome Tshwete