South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, this week said police are allowed to spot-check foreigners to ascertain whether they were legally in the country.
Motsoaledi was briefing the home affairs portfolio committee on the backlog in permit appeals for asylum seekers and refugees. He said:
Police have the right to stop and ask about documentation. It doesn’t have to be production or physical documentation like during apartheid days, meaning you are not forced to carry documents in your pockets everywhere you go.
He said documents will be checked against the national population register. Said Motsoaledi:
It’s something that can be done on the spot and it will be a pity if somebody has to be arrested because we have to do a manual check.
The Minister also revealed that four refugee centres, in Durban, Pretoria, Gqeberha and Musina, had been reopened after a two-year closure due to COVID-19.
The Cape Town refugee office is set to be reopened by the end of September.
On the possible reason why only 4 000 out of 178 000 Zimbabwean exemption permits (ZEP) holders had applied for visas to legalise their stay in SA, Motsoaledi said:
I wouldn’t say they’re showing us the middle finger. I’d say they have been convinced by these court cases that they shouldn’t bother [applying] because they believe this matter is going to be thrown out by the courts.