My nanny has been working for me since November 2008. She is the most wonderful woman, with excellent qualifications to her credit. She is also Zimbabwean – here for five years – trying to get asylum in our country …

I knew when I hired her that she would have to go regularly to renew her asylum papers. I accepted this because I felt she was the best person for the job and I interviewed more than 20 people – South Africans and Zimbabweans for the position – through nanny agencies and from referrals. She really is an exceptional person and has been a gift from God.

In the beginning, we had a few hiccups with the asylum papers – I never docked her leave for the visits to Home Affairs as I believed this would be unfair. Initially they were granting her 3 month visas and according to the documentation given to her she was supposed to go on the day it expired and renew. Every time she did that – either the day before it expired or the day it was due to expire – she was sent away by the officials in Joburg after being asked how she thought that they could renew something that hadn’t expired yet. They told her she had to wait to the day after it expired and then come back. She did as she was told and has been working that way for the past two years. After the first few three month asylum visas they extended her visa to six months and then to a year. Before they gave her the sixth month visa they told her her application for asylum had been rejected, yet they wouldn’t give her the reason for it which they are apparently supposed to do. They told her she could query this and try again. She has done so and still has been told it’s rejected with no reason given. Her and her husband are in this country and have valid reasons for fleeing Zimbabwe as do many I’m sure.

Recently she went to renew her visa and was told that the process has now changed. They gave her R1000 fine because she did not come prior to the visa expiring and they told her she was in the country illegally. She said there were many distraught people all facing the same problem – uncaring government officials who told them that they owed this money as they were now illegally here and if they didn’t pay then and there, they would face further fines and six months in prison before being deported. She was fortunate enough to be able to phone her husband and have him bring her the money.

She was told that for one day to one month overdue on the visa the fine is R1000 and that it goes up by R1000 for every month or part thereof after that.

When she told them what had been happening before they told her that’s not their problem and that the rules had changed recently and that’s just the way it was – if she didn’t like it they would cancel her papers and lock her up.

It’s not just Zimbabweans facing these problems – it’s all the foreigners in our country. This is surely not the spirit of Ubuntu – and it smacks of xenophobia at government level to me.

I just needed to get this out – I need people to understand that it’s not only the people on the street that the foreigners are now fearing but the government officials who on paper are promising to protect them.