Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said will begin taking applications for the Lesotho special permit offered to Basotho living in SA. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

SOUTH Africa and Lesotho will begin taking c in February, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Thursday.

The special permit is meant to assist Basotho who do not have the required documents to live and work in SA legally to regularise their stay. The Lesotho special permit will be valid until December 2019.

SA and Lesotho are collaborating on the project, which is expected to assist as many as 500,000 Basotho. The Cabinet approved the implementation of the dispensation in October last year.

This will come with an amnesty for those Basotho who have entered SA using fraudulent documents and a moratorium on deportations of Basotho nationals that will last until the end of December this year.

The programme replicates the Zimbabwean special permit, which allows undocumented Zimbabwean nationals to stay in the country and apply for the relevant documents to continue their stay in the country until December 2017.

Mr Gigaba said the uptake of the Lesotho special permit was already positive, as it would help protect the rights of Basotho labourers while they stayed and worked in SA.

"Undocumented migrants often face all manner of abusive and exploitive situations in the hands of unscrupulous local employers, and sometimes officials.... These include low wages, poor working conditions, myriad exploitative labour practices and human rights violations," Mr Gigaba said.

Mr Gigaba said Basotho looking to access a Lesotho special permit could start applying in February through call centres and outreach programmes. Online applications would begin in March and applications would close at the end of June.