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Jan. 5 (GIN) – Solidarity between South Africa and Zimbabwe seems frayed if not torn as deportations are threatened for thousands of Zimbabwean nationals eking out a living in the more prosperous country to the south.

Officials say more than 200,000 Zimbabweans have applied for the document. The deadline expired on December 31.

“In any country, a foreign national who lacks a permit faces deportation,” said Mayihlome Tshwete, Dept. of Home Affairs spokesman, but denied reports that as many as 40,000 would be expelled from the country.

“Deportation of these people would not address challenges of illegal migrants in South Africa,” said Zimbabwe Diaspora Forum spokesperson, Trust Ndlovu.  “Most have established families with children of South African citizenship and deporting them will be tantamount to abuse of children’s rights, among others.”

Zimbabwean Exiles Forum spokesman Gabriel Shumba said the blanket mass deportation of people is contrary to the spirit of human rights that’s enshrined in the constitution of South Africa.

"We stand ready to challenge any blanket deportation without taking into account the merits of each individual application.

Meanwhile, the Methodist Church in central Johannesburg will be closing its doors to refugees by the end of December, it was reported late last month.

The church has been a home for refugees since the xenophobia attacks that occurred in the country a few years ago.

Bishop Paul Verryn said they were trying to find alternative accommodation for the 500 people living there.

"We are energetically looking for alternative accommodation. The leadership of the circuit says the church building should be used solely for the purposes of worship." The refugees say they will fight their eviction as they had nowhere to go and were unemployed.

Estimates are that there are between two and three million Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa. w/pix of Zimbabwe refugee family

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