The South African Department of Home Affairs have confirmed that more than half a million people are expected to apply for this special permit when registration opens in March.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba commented from his office at the Department of Home Affairs saying that the number could be less as it is expected that more Basotho’s live in the Republic than those who will apply for their special permit after a similar scenario played out with the Zimbabwe Special Permits. The Department expected millions but only 250,000 Zimbabwean nationals applied the permit.
Lesotho is recognized as one of South Africa's major labour sources and the Department, in acknowledging this, announced that it would be calling on employers to assist in facilitating the process.
In a statement the Department added that there are no plans to extend the permits to other SADC countries for now.
Home Affairs is hoping the process will run smoother than the Zimbabwean Special Permits exercise, which it says was marred by technical glitches and other administrative problems.
The Department says it has learnt some tough lessons from the past and will use the same resources, including opening additional visa facilitation centres.
The permit will not only allow citizens of the Mountain Kingdom to legally live in the Republic, but this permit will also entitle them to legally work, study and even run their own businesses on South African soil.
The announcement was also made that Basotho citizens currently on South African soil but in possession of fraudulent South African travel documents will not be prosecuted, thanks to this agreement.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said the permit was aimed at regularising the stay of Basotho’s in the country to ensure they did not become victims of “unscrupulous treatment” from dodgy or underhanded employers.
Gigaba was addressing the media at the Lindela Repatriation Centre in Krugersdorp on Friday, after touring the facility with his Lesotho counterpart, Lekhetho Rakuoane.
He said visa facilitation centres would be opened in all nine provinces “to assist Lesotho nationals wanting to apply for the permit”. It was estimated that 500 000 people would come and apply for the permit, according to Gigaba.
The minister added that the LSP would be of benefit as those running enterprises could pay tax. The permit, he added, was run in similar fashion to the Zimbabwe Special Project which saw the stay of millions of undocumented Zimbabweans in the country regularised.
“We are appealing to domestic employers of Basotho nationals to issue them with letters of employment for them to qualify for this permit,” said Lesotho’s Rakuoane.
He was hopeful the issue of human trafficking would be addressed through the LSP.
Tumisang Mokoai, vice-consul at the Lesotho Consulate General office in Braamfontein, told The Star there were about 800 000 Basothos in the country.
He called the LSP a “good, mutually beneficial step”.
“Through this process we will be in a position to know the exact number of our people in South Africa. Given that there are a number of them working as domestics and in mines, we have noticed that they have not been treated very fairly by their employers,” said Mokoai.
He said the process would also stem the tide of hundreds of Basotho women who jump the porous border into South Africa under the pretext that they have secured a job, only to be forced into prostitution.