SOUTH Africa’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoeledi has said they extended the application period for Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (Zeps) to December due to an influx of applicants.
This comes amid reports that over 10 000 Zimbabweans domiciled across the Limpopo River appealed for State-assisted repatriation back home.
Pretoria last year announced that it would not renew the Zep permits after they expired in December 2022.
Zep permit holders were later given up to this month to regularise their stay or face deportation.
On Wednesday, Motsoaledi issued a statement announcing an extension of the grace period by further six months.
“The date is approaching and nothing is happening and they have got to safeguard themselves. It’s because as we keep on filing for those who have applied, they realise that the process is far, so they just wake up to apply in very large numbers in a short space of time,” Motsoaledi told South African media.
He said the department would issue an updated immigration directive for the border posts this week.
“It’s just like the previous one, except the dates, it’s the same directive. The directive informs people at various areas of Home Affairs, borders, at airports, etc for them to be aware of this and not trouble people, to be aware that their visas have been extended.”
In his statement, Motsoaledi said no Zimbabwean immigrants would be arrested or detained for purposes of deportation in terms of that country’s Immigration Act during the six-month grace period.
He said the holder of a valid permit may not be dealt with in terms of sections 29, 30 and 32 of the immigration Act.
“The holder of a valid exemption permit may be allowed to enter into or depart from the Republic of SA in terms of section 9 of the Act, read together with Immigration Regulation 2014 provided that he or she complies with all other requirements for entry into and departure from the Republic of SA save for the reason of having an expired exemption permit indicated in his or her passport and no holder of exemption should be required to produce a valid exemption certificate, an authorisation letter in the republic contemplated in section 32 (2) of the Immigration Act when making an application for any category of visas, including a temporary residence visa,” Motsoeledi said.
An estimated 10 000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa are reported to have applied for assistance from the government to return home.
“The number keeps on changing as registration is ongoing,” Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Livit Mugijo told NewsDay yesterday.
“We are going to assist them according to their needs. Some don’t need transport but others who indicate that they need it, will be assisted accordingly.”
About 180 000 Zimbabweans are holders of Zep permits.