By Farai Dauramanzi
Long queues are being experienced at the South African Embassy in Harare due to the high number of Zimbabweans who had returned for the festive season and need to sort out their papers before they go back to South Africa.
One of our 263Chat reporters who visited the embassy around 10:00am on 6 January 2015 witnessed more than 100 people that were queued outside of the embassy gates patiently waiting for their turn to be served. Many others could be seen queuing inside the embassy gates.
263Chat managed to gather that some of the people in the queue were there for various reasons ranging from applying and collection of work and study permits as well as some who wanted to pay fines for overstaying in South Africa.
One applicant who was only identified as Ishmael complained that the service at the embassy was slow.
“I came yesterday and followed a long queue to collect the application forms and today I have come back for submission which I am not sure will be possible today. So it is most likely that I will be back again tomorrow,” said Ishmael.
The long queues are reminiscent of the ones that were experienced at the South African Embassy during the era when Zimbabweans still needed a visa to visit South Africa. One airtime vendor at the embassy gates said that the long queues were now forcing some people to sleep at the embassy gates in order to be served early.
“Some people who are in a hurry to acquire their papers are now coming to sleep on the queue in order to get a good number. I believe the long queues are due to the people who need to have their papers sorted before going back to South Africa,” said the airtime vendor who refused to be identified.
The airtime vendor who lives near the embassy also revealed that he was now doing the job of sleeping in the queue for people similar to those touts who used to operate at the Harare passport offices a few years ago.
“I charge $10 for sleeping in the queue for people. I think this is fair enough because I will be sacrificing my sleep and at least my wife will get something in the morning,” said the airtime vendor.
However, an investigation by 263Chat revealed that not only the airtime vendors were benefiting from the long queues. Security guards at the embassy are also offering deals for quick service. Investigations revealed that guards were selling the various application forms and also facilitating entry into the embassy premises for a fee.
263Chat even witnessed one guard who offered a medical form to one applicant who was waiting in the queue outside for $5. The applicant tried to negotiate for a reduction of the amount to $4 an offer that was declined by the security guard saying that he was already keeping the form for someone.