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Alex Bell of SW reports that the Zimbabwean authorities in South Africa have finally relented in its initial refusal to deliver passports to its citizens in Cape Town, amid ongoing pressure to finalise the passport issue by the end of June.

The reporter says the Zimbabwe Consulate was until recently, refusing to budge from its announcement that all passports, no matter where they were applied for, had to be collected in Johannesburg. This is despite the fact that temporary, mobile units were set up across the country to cater to the thousands of Zimbabweans who made the effort to apply for the passports as part of the ongoing Zim Documentation Project.

The applications for the permits are in the process of being finalised, with the South African authorities insisting they will be done by the time they resume Zim deportations in August. But thousands of Zimbabweans are still waiting for their passports so that their permit applications can be finalised, and the Zim government has been accused of deliberately stalling to prevent its nationals in the Diaspora from having proper documents.

Braam Hanekom from the refugee rights group PASSOP told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday that traveling to Johannesburg to collect passports was out of the question for most Zimbabweans in Cape Town and other cities. The documents cost more than R700, a princely sum for the many Zimbabweans trying to scrape a basic living in South Africa. Hanekom said the additional prohibitive cost of travel means that the Zim authorities have an obligation to deliver the passports to where the applications were originally made.

But Hanekom explained that the Zimbabwe authorities have now relented and will be delivering to passports to Cape Town.

“We welcome this move, but we are still quite pessimistic that the authorities will meet the deadline to roll out all the passports in time. If Zimbabwe is unable to complete this process, then things will be problematic and we can only hope that South Africa will show leniency towards Zimbabweans,” Hanekom said.

Consulate officials will be distributing passports in Cape Town from the South African Department of Home Affairs office in Boston Centre, Bellville between 28 and 30 April 2011.