ZIMBABWEANS in South Africa have welcomed the further extension of the deadline for submissions of the new Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), saying many people had failed to apply due to various challenges.
The South African Department of Home Affairs on Wednesday further extended the deadline for payments and submissions of supporting documents and biometrics for the new ZEP to February 15.
The cut-off date was initially November 30 last year and was extended to January 31 in the hope that those who had applied online would have made the necessary payments and provided the required supporting documents and biometrics.
The department said by Monday this week, a total of 176 605 applicants had completed the entire process, which included honouring their appointments and submitting supporting documents and biometrics.
The chairman of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena yesterday said the extension would give Zimbabweans, who had not done the process, an opportunity to legalise their stay in the neighbouring country.
“This is a welcome development and we thank the South African Government for this further extension,” he said. “It’s quite a relief because many Zimbabweans are yet to secure the permits. I hope the affected Zimbabweans will take advantage of the extension.
“Some applicants’ passports had expired and they applied for new passports at the Registrar-General’s department back home, but they were taking long to be issued resulting in them failing to meet the deadline. The emergency passports are too expensive, hence many are waiting for the ordinary passports.”
Mr Mabhena said the online application system was also not user friendly, forcing applicants to seek help from internet shops and other organisations.
“There are other people who didn’t attempt at all because they don’t have access to the Internet, which makes it impossible for them to apply for permits,” said Mr Mabhena.
He said they were in the process of engaging the South African government to lobby for the inclusion of cross-border traders and other Zimbabweans who do not qualify for the ZEP.
“In 2015, the SA Government started the process of renewing its immigration policy to accommodate foreigners from the Sadc region wishing to work or do business in South Africa,” said Mr Mabhena.
“We’re, therefore, lobbying the Portfolio Committee of South Africa’s Home Affairs Department to speed up the implementation of the policy so that those who have not been able to get permits through the ZEP can get cross-border Sadc visas and Sadc work visas.”
Mr Mabhena said most cross-border traders were being given limited days to spend in South Africa, resulting in them being banned from entering the neighbouring country after overstaying.
The SA Home Affairs Department has said the ZEP permits were valid for a maximum period of four years, effective from January 1 this year.
The department said exemption permits like the ZEP permits were not permanent or long-term as they only serve a specific purpose and the understanding is that the beneficiaries will in future return to their countries of origin.