The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa has begun engaging the South African government on the possibility of a further extension of special permits granted to nearly 200 000 Zimbabweans working and studying in that country.
The permits initially granted in issued in 2012, to allow Zimbabweans illegally working in Africa’s most industrialised economy to regularise their stay there, expired on December 31, 2014 and were renewed in 2015 and 2018 respectively.
All Zimbabweans with a crime-free record were eligible to apply for the special permits in which the South African Department of Home Affairs waived all the stringent requirements normally associated with acquiring a work permit.
Under the special permits, the South African government also invited Zimbabweans who had fraudulently acquired national identity cards and passports of that country to surrender them and apply for the special permits without any retribution.
Over 198 000 Zimbabweans are registered under those special permits whose lifespan now, however, elapses in 2021.
The South African government has not yet indicated the course to be taken upon the expiry of the documents although having indicated they were non-renewable.
Zim Community SA chairperson, Ngqabutho Mabhena told CITE, discussions with the South African government on the future of the permits, now known as the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) were underway.
“We continue to negotiate for the renewal of special permits,” said Mabhena, adding they were looking forward to a favourable outcome.
He said the new diaspora passport fees would be a stumbling block for many who would want to continue their stay in South Africa should their negotiations be successful.
“This (diaspora passport fee) will affect thousands of Zimbabweans in South Africa who will fail to renew their passports as the discussion with the South African government on the future of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit is underway,” said Mabhena.
He, however, did not give more details.