Some Zimbabwean teachers in the Western Cape have gone unpaid for as long as nine months because the department of home affairs is dragging its feet when it comes to verifying Zimbabwe exemption permits (ZEP).
“Our problem‚ however‚ is that Home Affairs takes its time to verify these work permits. We follow up on numerous occasions‚” said Bronagh Hammond‚ spokesperson for the Western Cape education department.
“Home affairs has confirmed that it is inundated with permit verification. Even if the work permit is barcoded‚ it still needs to be verified. The department does sympathise. It is unfair to those educators with valid permits to wait so long. The department‚ however‚ has to abide by the law‚” said Hammond.
Verification is a requirement set by home affairs. Hammond said failure to verify a permit‚ which may later be found to be fraudulent‚ could result in department officials or school principals paying a hefty fine or facing imprisonment — and confirmed that home affairs has found fraudulent permits.
Jack Mutsvairo‚ chair of the Union of Zimbabwean Educators Western Cape‚ established in 2016‚ said the union had 50 members and a WhatsApp group of 200 teachers. He said the union was irritated by the verification process.
“If banks take less than a week to do it‚ why is the department taking months? Some of the Zimbabwean teachers‚ who come to us claiming they haven’t been paid for between three to nine months‚ tell sad stories‚” said Mutsvairo.
Some‚ he said‚ have got into debt borrowing money for rent‚ food and their children’s school fees. Some teachers suffering from delays do not engage the union as they fear victimisation if they speak out about having not been paid, Mutsvairo said.
A man who teaches mathematics and physical science to Grades 11 and 12‚ said he has been without a salary since January‚ awaiting his ZEP. On August 3, he collected his permit and submitted it to the department‚ but he had still not been paid as the department was waiting for home affairs to verify the permit.
On Tuesday‚ Hammond told GroundUp his permit has now been verified and his outstanding salary will be paid into his account by the end of the week. Home affairs did not respond to a request for comment.
• This article was first published on GroundUp