Over 20 people, most of them Zimbabwean refugees, are squatting in the former Zimbabwean Consulate office at 55 and 53 Kuyper Street in the Cape Town CBD.
They have no electricity or running water and the building is in a filthy state.
Zimbabwean refugee Lundi Dhlamini said he had been squatting in the building for the last eight months while looking for employment.
He said since he started squatting there many more Zimbabweans had arrived after being referred by friends.
The building, which has been vandalised since the consulate closed in 2006, is still listed on the Internet as a functioning consulate.
According to reports, the Zimbabwean government still owns the property and has outstanding rates of R25 000 owed to the City of Cape Town.
Roof sheeting, windows and taps have been stolen and parts of the floor are covered in faeces.
Dhlamini said although police often came to chase them away, he and his fellow squatters simply returned because they had nowhere else to go. He said the building was cold “but we make fires to keep warm and cook food inside the building”.
Meanwhile, the long-standing closure of the consulate means thousands of Zimbabweans wanting to benefit from the South African Home Affairs special dispensation would have to go to Pretoria to sort out their documents, the only City with a functioning Zimbabwean Embassy.
The special dispensation, which was implemented by the Home Affairs department in April 2009, allows Zimbabweans the right to live, work and study in South Africa for a period of six months.
But the special dispensation deadline ends on December 31 this year.
To qualify, Zimbabweans would have to have affidavits signed by their consulate or embassy indicating that they lived, worked, or studied in their country.
It also allows Zimbabweans who are in the country illegally to avoid deportation by giving their details to the Zimbabwe Embassy or Consulate.
However, the closure of the Consulate office in Cape Town Consulate means Zimbabweans have to travel to the Embassy in Pretoria – something many of them have not the money to do.
Braam Hanekom, coordinator for People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty (Passop) said as a result, hundreds of Zimbabweans in the Cape were phoning his the organisation asking for assistance..
“We have been trying to get a meeting with the Zimbabwe Embassy officials to try to convince them of the need of the consulate in Cape Town but with no success,” said Hanekom.
An official at the Pretoria Embassy, who refused to give his name, said: “We know about the closed consulate in Cape Town and we are dealing with the matter. We are busy with arrangements to help Zim (sic) refugees living in Cape Town. New facilities to assist Zimbabwe refugees would be unveiled in two weeks time.”
In February civil society initiative AfriForum, on behalf of the Commercial Farmer’s Union (CFU) successfully approached the North Gauteng High Court to have four properties belonging to the Zimbabwe government seized in order to have them auctioned to reimburse farmers whose land had been expropriated.
The move came after the Southern African Development Community Tribunal ruled that the land reform process of Robert Mugabe was illegal and racist and ordered that compensation had to be paid to farmers.
According to AfriForum spokesperson Willie Spies, the Cape Town based Zimbabwe Consulate property was scheduled for auction to recover debts owed by the Zimbabwean government.
But the process has been put on hold after the Zimbabwe government launched an application with both the North and the South-Gauteng High court to set the decision aside.
The Zimbabwe government was expected to file papers before the end of this month. – West Cape News