The night is cold. With only the moon as light, one would expect people to be indoors or at least on their way home but such is not the case.
Hundreds of potential students and workers are camping out on Elcombe street with the hope of making it into the first 150 people to be served the next morning at the South African Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Some have arrived at 7pm and have set up camp to wait for the office hours the next day.
Getting a visa/ permit in Zimbabwe has proved to be a difficult endevour since the new South African visa re gulations have been set in motion. One of the main regulations states that everyone must apply for a change of status at the embassies in their home countries.
In as much as this lessens the burden on the South African internal home affairs it has set off an unfortunate domino effect for students and workers stationed in the republic.
“Registration closes on the 19th (of January) and i am still here. I have been trying to submit since Monday but the line is so long, for you to get served you have to get here (the embassy ) at 2 am and wait for [sic] when they open,” says Tinashe* a first year student at the University of Cape Town.
The workers at the South African Embassy in Harare, Zimbabwe have decreed they only serve 150 apllicants for submission a day. The applicants have taken to sleeping on the street with the hope of securing a place in the coveted 150.
Hustlers have found a way to make easy cash by selling spaces on the queue.
“There is a man who tells people to write their names down for a spot in the queue. He obviously is paid by people to keep spots for them whilst they go home for the night and come back the next day, whilst others have slept there all night,” says Chiedza* who is applying for a visitors visa.
The “man” who sells spots on the queue was not available for comment.
Having discovered this, I decided to find out for myself how far true this was. On Wednesday the 7th of January I decided to go and try and keep a place in the coveted 150. I arrived at 10:30pm and found the queue quite short. There was roughly 80 people sleeping in line. I stationed my chair at the end of the queue and waited.
Before long, three men, two of which were drunk and one was calling out to people in the queue to put their names down in his book. He claimed to have 120 names down. I guessed I had found the “man”. A short light man walking around with a counter book and torch.
People who had just arrived scrambled to scribble their names down. But I held back. This man did not have any uniform or way of identifying what he was there for. After some time I went and wrote my name down as well.
It was at around 2:15 am when the commotion started.
This man and his cronies had one of the night guard call out the names on the list. Displacing those who had arrived earlier and not written their names down.
This is the time this man slots in his clients who have booked places.
“This guy creates so much confusion that people lose their places and have no choice but to follow the structure of his list.
He obviously puts his people in because some of the guys in the line now weren’t here earlier. ” said one student.
When asked how much people paid, most of the people assumed the prices were from 25US $ to be in the top 20 and from 10US $ to be in the top 50.
“The prices were from 25US $ for a spot in the top 20… and 10US $ for a spot in the top 50.”
The issue of getting visas has turned into a nightmare for students and workers the like with the system screws having been tightened and corruption levels on a high.
Most students are contacting their respective employers and institutions requesting extentions and liniency during this trying time.
names have been changed due to sensitivity.