ZIMBABWEANS in South Africa have welcomed the South African decision to extend the validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) by a further six months, to allow the holders to apply for one or more of the other visas and waivers provided for in the Immigration Act.
The permits were due to expire at the end of this month and a number of Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa had started packing bags ahead of departure, with some seeking assistance to return home.
In a statement on Wednesday, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said during the next six months, no holder of the ZEP will be arrested, ordered to depart or be detained for purposes of deportation, or deported in terms of the Immigration Act for any reason related to not having a valid exemption certificate.
In separate interviews, the Zimbabweans said the latest move was welcome as it would allow most of them who are yet to get a response from Home Affairs Ministry another opportunity to fix their documents.
“As Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, we welcome the extension because just a few weeks ago, we and others started lobbying for the extension as the only realistic and practical way of ameliorate a pending humanitarian disaster,” said the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum, Advocate Gabriel Shumba.
“Among the serious issues are for instance children being forced to abandon school mid-year and the difficulties associated with migration to the mainstream permits. We welcome this announcement as a humane way of approaching this unfortunate issue that punishes those who comply with legislation and status requirements because of political considerations”.
He also urged the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa to urgently reconstitute the stakeholders’ forum for purposes of consultation and dialogue.
The chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena said the extension is a positive development as the entire process of applying for waiver and visa required more than six months.
He further urged Zimbabweans who are holders of ZEPs to continue applying as well as those whose passports are set to expire before the end of the year.
“We welcome the extension by the Minister of Home Affairs, it was always clear to us that the entire process would not have been completed by the June 30 deadline as many people were still applying for waivers. We know, a waiver is not a visa. Once a person applies for a waiver they then apply for a visa,” said Mr Mabhena.
“There was therefore no time for them to complete this process and as such we welcome this decision and also call upon Zimbabweans who are holders of ZEPs to continue to apply.”
Mr Mabhena urged the Verification Visa Centre to devise means of expediting the application process to avoid unnecessary delays.
“We are also calling upon those manning the Verification Visa Centre to improve their management system in receiving applications because many people have been complaining that there are no slots for submission. So, we hope that this extension will also allow the VFS to review its management system so that people do not get delayed whenever they want to submit their applications,” he said
One of the ZEP holders, Miss Praise Matizirofa, said the reprieve gives them more time to apply for other permits.
Another Zimbabwean based in South Africa, Miss Bongani Siziba said the extension has saved them a huge headache of moving children from the schools’ mid-year year and managing their funds especially those who have investments who have been in South Africa for more than 10 years.
She said many people risked losing their property and investments considering that many had not received any feedback on their applications and had become anxious.
“This is a relief for many Zimbabweans, especially those who had invested a lot in the last 10 years and were not sure of their fate after June 30 this year,” she said.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa Mr David Hamadziripi said on Wednesday that between 8 000 and 10 000 people had registered with the embassy to facilitate their smooth return.
Zimbabwean Foreign Affairs and International Trade Ministry spokesperson Mr Livit Mugejo said the Government was prepared to assist and welcome returning Zimbabweans.
“All systems are ready. It changes nothing. We are going to keep on preparing to assist those who want to return. We are going to be ready to assist our citizens whenever the time comes,” he said.
At the moment the Department of Immigration at Beitbridge Border Post is processing documents for an average of 200 returning residents a day who are holders of the ZEP.
Over 170 000 Zimbabweans are based in South Africa under the special permit. In November 2021, the South African Cabinet indicated that they would not make further concessions for the ZEP holders, who were then given a grace period to migrate to other mainstream permits or return home.
As such, Zimbabwe has been putting measures in place to facilitate a smooth return of the affected Zimbabweans. Among other things, the returnees will enjoy a free import rebate including the shipping of one vehicle owned on the date of arrival in Zimbabwe.
In 2009, the South African government launched the Dispensation of Zimbabwean Project with the main objective of providing amnesty to undocumented Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa to regularise their stay.
In 2018, the permit dispensation was extended and renamed to the ZEP, for four years which was due to expire at the end of last year. This was extended to the middle of this year.
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Publish date : 2023-06-09 04:47:45