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Some Zimbabweans in South Africa did not get special dispensation permits when these were introduced in 2010 as they thought it was meant to identify them for persecution by the ruling party, Zanu-PF, Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi has said.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a Zanu-PF Matabeleland South meeting in Gwanda on Tuesday, Mohadi said the issuing of the permits to Zimbabweans was largely an issue of the South African authorities but government would continue to engage them on the matter.

"We asked for a special dispensation in 2010 to register Zimbabweans so that their stay in South Africa could get legitimacy, but many people did not come out because they believed the propaganda that Zanu-PF wanted to identify them and persecute them," he said.

"But we wanted to take stock of Zimbabweans in the diaspora.  So only 250 000 got the permits which expired last year, some in October, November and December and they now need to re-apply."

It is estimated that three million Zimbabweans, seeking greener pastures, are working in South Africa.

The aim of the exercise was "to create a record of Zimbabweans who had, until then, been living illegally in South Africa and was therefore  intended to provide an amnesty to Zimbabweans who had been using fraudulent South African identity documents" to get jobs as they fled the decade-long  economic crisis in Zimbabwe".

Mohadi said government would continue to engage South African authorities following the expiry of the December 31 2014 deadline for the application for the special dispensation permits.

Holders of the permits would be eligible to stay in South Africa until the end of 2017.

He said going forward government would discuss with South African authorities to be able to have an exercise similar to the 2010 one more regularly.

"We realise that people will always be going and coming back from South Africa," said Mohadi.

Zimbabwe and South Africa enjoy historical ties that link people from the two countries, with some like the Venda being separated by the Limpompo River which was set by the colonialists as the boundary between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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