News Column

I am legal but can't get a bank account

January 27, 2014

I am Zimbabwean and arrived as a refugee in South Africa about three years ago. I still hold a temporary asylum document which I renew every six months. This document legalises my stay in South Africa . It also provides that as an asylum seeker, I am entitled to study and work in South Africa . Practically, sadly, this entitlement ends on the document itself. On the ground, it is a completely different story. First, through this legal document I have found it impossible to send or receive money anywhere in South Africa through the less costly Shoprite or Pick n' Pay services. Neither of the companies accepts asylum papers as proof of identity although all legal details are there as in any normal national identity document. They always demand a valid South African ID without which you cannot be assisted. Second, none of the banks accepts asylum papers for the opening of a bank account. This means that although the government accepted me as a legal resident and allowed me the right to work, I cannot enjoy this right since I do not have a basic necessity - a bank account, through which I may receive any wage or salary. The above does not mean, however, that I am ungrateful of the peaceful space that South Africa has given me and my fellow Zimbabweans. I do appreciate it, but this is not a matter of appreciation or privilege. It is a matter of fundamental rights contained in international law, rights which are also recognised and protected by the Refugees Act and the constitution of South Africa . It is time that private institutions respected such rights as the South African government has already done. I believe the Constitutional Court would be interested in resolving such an issue. Ephraim Munjodzi Kutlwanong, Welkom The Star

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Source: Star, The (South Africa)

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