106 ZAMBIAN nationals, whose days of staying in South Africa expired before and during the coronavirus lockdown, have been banned from travelling to that country for a maximum period of five years.

On May 18, these Zambian nationals arrived back home after the Zambian High Commission in South Africa, together with the Zambia Association in South Africa (ZASA), facilitated their exit from South Africa.

Last month, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs announced that all foreign nationals whose work, study or business visas in SA expired during the COVID-19 lockdown would not be penalised.

“This also applies to people who submitted their applications before the lockdown, with the outcome pending. This is among temporary visa measures for foreign nationals legally in SA, which will remain valid until July 31 unless extended officially by the Department,” South African Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said.

But Zambian nationals, who had overstayed, were given individual letters and their passports withheld at Beit Bridge border on their return to the effect that they have been banned from travelling to that country for periods ranging from five, three and two years and were advised to appeal within 10 days.

And some of those affected complained that the South African High Commission in Lusaka had told them that there was nothing it could do to lift the ban, but that the affected Zambians should just wait for the five-year period.

“Just a notice pertaining to the passports that were held up due to this pandemic. Unfortunately, as we passed through the South African High Commission in Zambia, we were told that there is nothing they can do about it. As it is, we have been told that there is no other way of lifting the travel ban and that we will have to wait until after the five years. This is unfair because it was not our fault that we were unable to move during the lockdown. We went to the High Commission here in Zambia and no one seemed to pay attention to us. We were not even allowed to enter inside. We were turned back right at the gate,” they complained.

And ZASA president Ferdinand Simaanya said only 43 out of the total 106 who travelled had expired days during the lockdown, while the rest had their days expired before the lockdown.

“From the 106 people who travelled back to Zambia, only 43 people had their days expired during the lockdown. The 43 are being helped by the High Commission [in Pretoria]. The rest of them had their days expired before the lockdown,” Simaanya responded in a WhatsApp group called ZASA South branch.