Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Reporter
Government is working on mechanisms to assist Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa who wish to return home after the expiry of the special permits in December.
Responding to questions, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Mr Livit Mugejo said Zimbabwe recognises and respects the sovereign decision that was taken by South Africa regarding the special dispensation permits.
Several meetings have been held between Zimbabwean authorities and the relevant departments in South Africa to find ways to minimise the disruption of lives as result of the expiry of the special permits.The latest high level Government to Government engagement was the Mid-Term Review (MTR) meeting of the Third Session of the Zimbabwe — South Africa Bi-National Commission which was held in Pretoria in May 2022 where it was agreed that Zimbabweans need to regularise their stay in order to continue living and working legally in South Africa.
Many Zimbabweans have taken heed of the new policy change and have been making the required visa applications.
“Lines of communication between Harare and Pretoria are alive and the bilateral relations between the two countries are excellent. Zimbabwe Government officials convened several meetings with the relevant departments in South Africa to find ways to minimise the disruption of the lives of our people as result of the dissolution of special permits in December this year.
The latest high level Government to Government engagement was the Mid-Term Review (MTR) meeting of the Third Session of the Zimbabwe — South Africa Bi-National Commission which was held in Pretoria in May 2022.
The MTR agreed that Zimbabweans need to regularise their stay in order to continue living and working legally in South Africa,” said Mr Mugejo.
Nearly 200 000 Zimbabweans face deportation upon the expiry of their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) on December 31 if they do not apply for other eligible permits announced by the South African Department of Home Affairs.
The special permits were initially meant to have expired on December 31, 2021 but the South African Government extended their lifespan by a further 12 months and advised that holders of such permits must utilise the grace period to apply for new visas.
Four different permits were announced and these are student, business, spousal and work permit visas.
There has however, been an outcry that the conditions set for one to get the permits, especially the work visa one, were very stringent and way beyond most Zimbabweans who are mainly doing non specialised skills jobs.
The ZEP cancellation and requirement to apply for a new visa aligns with SA’s review of all visas issued from as far back as 2004 but Zimbabweans are the only ones who have to reapply for a visa at the moment.
For one to get a student visa, they ought to provide proof of being admitted at a registered learning institution in terms of section 1 of the South African Schools Act, 1996 as well as a college established in terms of the Further Education and Training Colleges Act, 2006.
Students are required to provide proof of medical cover renewed annually for the period of study with a medical scheme registered in terms of the Medical Schemes Act.
To get a work visa, the applicant must prove they are filling a critical skill post and that their employer cannot find an equally qualified South African for the job.
According to a critical skills list released by the Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on February 2 this year, there are 101 jobs that meet the set requirements and are mostly in sciences whose qualifications make it almost impossible for the generality of Zimbabweans working in South Africa.
“The government of Zimbabwe has been facilitating these visa applications by availing mobile registration exercises in various provinces in South Africa to issue civil documents to enable our nationals to regularise their stay.
Let me reiterate that leave to remain in South Africa is based on the sovereign laws of South Africa.
Zimbabwe recognises and respects the sovereign decision that was taken by South Africa regarding the special dispensation permits.
The Zimbabwe Government will continue to encourage its nationals in South Africa to embrace the latest policy change and comply with it.
Government is working on mechanisms to assist our nationals who wish to return home after the December deadline and these will be announced in due course,” said Mr Mugejo.