Two identical fingerprints on two different asylum seeker temporary permits were sold to two Zimbabwean brothers.
It took less than a working day for two Zimbabwean brothers to secure asylum seeker temporary permits after a Home Affairs official reportedly sold them the sought-after documentation for R1 600 each.
The brothers visited the department last week after their documents had expired.
One of the brothers, aged 29, said they were “losing out on a day’s wages”, standing in queues.
“Administrative staff kept telling us to come back the next day. Already, we had taken time off from work, which meant we were effectively losing a day’s pay.
“A Home Affairs official approached us and asked us if we wanted to be helped quickly. We agreed but he then said we needed to pay him R2 000 each. We managed to talk him down to R1 600.”
The construction worker said he and his brother had to wait for over four hours to receive their documents.
The official “spoke to a security guard who allowed them into an office through a back entrance”.
He said he knew what the official was doing was unethical, but thought of his family in Zimbabwe who depended on his income. “It is the reason why I decided to pay the official.”
But their employer noticed something amiss when he inspected their documents.
“Last week our boss asked us why our fingerprints on the documents looked the same. It was only then that we realised the documents were fraudulent. Now we are without work until we can sort out this mess.”
The construction company manager, who noticed the irregularities, who only identified himself as Grant, said: “It is against the law for us to employ foreigners who don’t have the proper documentation.
“We had to tell the brothers to renew their paperwork. When they brought back the documentation, I noticed that the fingerprints were the same and the signatures were at the exact same place on both sets of documents, which is not possible. Also, the documents had the same bar code.”
Grant quizzed the two men who admitted to paying R1 600 each for their documents. “If I hadn’t checked the papers thoroughly, I wouldn’t have known and the business might have faced a fine of R200 000 if government officials found out that we had illegal foreigners working for us.”
He said the Department of Home Affairs was not educating companies how to recognise fraudulent documents.
He was also not sure how to proceed now that he had uncovered the fraud.
A spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs, Mayihlome Tshwete, said: “The department receives information and tip-offs continually about fraud and corrupt practices relating to our services.
“However, in certain cases, it is not always our officials involved in these practices but members of the public who deceive asylum seekers into believing that they work for Home Affairs.
“In this regard, the department is not in a position to quantify cases of this nature at this moment.”
Tshwete said in July, Minister Malusi Gigaba launched Operation Bvisa Masina (“Throw out the rot” in Tshivenda) to ensure that those found to be involved in “callous acts of fraud and corruption face the full might of the law”.
So far, 27 suspects – including Home Affairs officials and members of the public – have been arrested.
“We wish to send a stern message to those involved in these acts to desist as the department has adopted a zero tolerance approach towards fraud and corruption,” Tshwete said.
“The entire process of applying for asylum is free of charge.
“The Department of Home Affairs does not engage the services of brokers or agents to assist asylum seekers with their applications.”
Tshwete said that anyone who solicits money in relation to the application of asylum should be reported to the refugee reception office management or the nearest police station.