Misery in Moz: Saffers up the creek without a passport
Mozambique seizes passports, slaps South Africans with heavy fines for being there under false pretences
Dozens of South Africans have had their passports confiscated and are said to be stranded in Mozambique for overstaying their welcome.
Their only recourse now to have their passports returned is to pay fines which run into thousands of rands.
Since last month, Mozambican immigration authorities have been clamping down on South Africans who arrive for business under the pretence of being in the country on holiday.
Times Select has learnt that nearly 30 South Africans are fighting to have their seized passports returned.
It’s a fight that has now involved the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco), which has officially requested a response from its Mozambican counterparts.
The Mozambican embassy failed to respond to questions from Times Select.
‘They would not listen’
Glen Hall, who paid a R12,000 fine to get his passport returned, said he regularly went deep-sea fishing in Mozambique.
“I was in Mozambique for the weekend. I was staying with a friend at a housing estate in Maputo, which is popular with South Africans, when the immigration officials arrived. They blocked the entrance and stopped cars as they arrived or left.”He said the officials demanded his passport.
“When they saw my entry and exit stamps they said I was working there. They told me they were confiscating it and that I needed to go to the immigration office and pay a fine to get it back.”
Hall said his friend, with whom he had spent the weekend, also had his passport seized. “He has a work permit, but still they took his passport away.”
When Hall got to the immigration office he was told he travelled to the country “too often” to be a fisherman.
“I tried to explain why I was there, providing proof of my fishing trips, but they would not listen. When I asked how often one was allowed to come to Mozambique, I was told as often as I liked.
“It was total madness. If I had tried to argue further I would still be there.”Hall paid the fine “so I could get back to South Africa to run my business”.
A South African who is still stranded in Maputo said he had been questioned about the number of times he had entered and left the country.
Asking not to be named for fear of angering the Mozambican authorities, he said he was in the tourist town of Inhambane when immigration authorities stopped him and confiscated his passports.
“At the immigration office I was told I had to pay a R19,000 fine to get my passport back. They fined me from the time I entered the country, which was three weeks ago, until now.”The officials had had his passports for a week.
“The South African embassy has told us we are not the only ones in this situation. We just hope it can be resolved soon.”
However, another South African, who works in Mozambique, said South Africans were constantly trying to take chances.
Asking not to be named, he said those entering the country knew the rules.
“They are in black and white at all the border posts. You are allowed into the country for 90 days without a visa, but only for 30 days at a time.”
When the expiry of their stay approached, South Africans would leave for the day and return the next day, “which is against the rules”.
“The Mozambican authorities are clamping down on this. The authorities fine you heftily for every day you overstay.”
He said he was stopped as he returned to SA and had his passport confiscated.
“The South African embassy helped me get it back, without having to pay a fine. I could show I had permission to work in the country.”
He said there were many South Africans who were being “skelm” [naughty] to stay there.Dirco spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said they are aware of eight South Africans stranded in Mozambique who have had their passports confiscated.
“The South Africa Mission has written a Note Verbal to the Foreign Affairs Ministry to assist on this matter.”
He said from previous meetings with their Mozambican counterparts, they had been told those whose passports were confiscated should pay the fines because they have broken the country’s immigration laws.
Mabaya said it was procedure in Mozambique to confiscate passports in such instances and for fines to be paid, and that if they were not “the matter is then handed over to the courts”.
If travelling on holiday there was no limit to the number of times South Africans could travel to Mozambique. “While South Africans travelling on business need a working visa, those on vacation for less than 30 days do not.”