DESPERATE Zimbabweans are forking out as much as R13 000 paying suspected bogus permit agents in South Africa under the guise of facilitating the process as anxiety reaches fever pitch ahead of an official verdict on permit renewal.

South Africa is expected to make an announcement before next week Friday on the fate of thousands of Zimbabwe permit holders issued documents under a 2009 special dispensation. The permits expire this year.

The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa (ZCSA) chairperson Ngqabutho Mabhena addressed church members in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, on permits on Sunday and 15 church members confessed to having parted with R13,000 to have their papers renewed.

"Desperate situations call for desperate measures. They are trying to preserve their jobs. The ZCSA is concerned with some so-called permit agents who continue to exploit desperate Zimbabweans who need to legalise their stay in South Africa following the expiry of their permits," he said.

"In yesterday's (Sunday) meeting, the chairman leant that some Zimbabweans have paid up to R13 000 to renew their permits but they are yet to receive those permits. This is clear exploitation by these greedy agents. It has come to our attention that some people who applied for permits four years ago are yet to receive their permits."

Mabhena said each time the applicants contacted the Home Affairs department, they were told that their permits were still pending.

"It is now clear that those so-called pending permits were sold by Home Affairs officials through the back door to other Zimbabweans. These are the same permits that are said not to be on the data system when one gets to the border post," he said.

"The permits were for free four years ago and we do not know what the government will say now on renewals. We call upon all Zimbabweans to stop seeking the services of these greedy permit agents. Let us wait for (South African Home Affairs) minister Malusi Gigaba to announce how the government will deal with the issue of permits," he added.

Gigaba and his Zimbabwe counterpart Kembo Mohadi held talks last week in Pretoria to seek common ground on the permits dispensation time frame which is due to expire before the end of the year. Most permits issued to about 250 000 Zimbabweans in 2009 to legalise their stay in South Africa have expired fuelling anxiety.

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