THE decision by South Africa this week to stop extending the Special Zimbabweans Exemption Permits (ZEP) that first came into force in 2017, was inevitable as President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has for years been under pressure to preserve the few remaining jobs for locals.
Besides, it is a wake-up call for the Harare administration to provide for its citizens’ needs and avoid situations where they end up taking up menial jobs in foreign lands after being let down by their own government.
In fact, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government should be grateful to South Africa for accommodating our fellow countrymen, some undocumented, for this long given that Pretoria is also battling high unemployment and a rapidly deteriorating if not a fragile economy already.
For how long should we expect our neighbours to carry our cross for us? They have their own problems which require urgent attention, so the sooner we carry our burden the better for them.
Leader of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), Vusumuzi Sibanda aptly summed it when he said Ramaphosa might have given in to pressure from right-wing elements who were getting agitated by foreigners dominating the South African job market.
So, the onus is now on Mnangagwa and his Executive to take advantage of the given 12-month grace period to stabilise the economy and absorb these returnees into the formal job market.
Anything short of this would certainly cause a spike in crime rate as they try to adjust to a life in an informalised economy. It must be borne in mind that the majority of these people crossed the borders to eke a living and provide for their families back home, so government has to ensure they don’t feel out of place on their return.
In fact, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube on Thursday summed it up when he admitted that the diasporans were a key factor in the country’s economy after they pumped in an estimated US$1,5 billion into the economy this year.
It is a fact that the decision by the South African government would throw into poverty the many families which survived on cash remittances from across the Limpopo.
The bulk of the money sent home was used to finance everyday household survival, in particular school fees, groceries and utilities.
The remittances also took the form of basic groceries, medical supplies, clothing and other household items, due to the limited availability and cost of these items in Zimbabwe.
But with the expiry of the permits and prospects of deportations, this spells doom to the immigrants and their families back home that relied on them.
A decrease in goods and cash remittances could only exacerbate poverty and increase crime. It is time that authorities fix the country to ensure a better life for all Zimbabweans without worrying about the need to risk the crocodile-infested river crossing illegally into South Africa should that country carry out its planned deportation of undocumented Zimbabweans.