SOUTH Africa yesterday extended by six months the period under which holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) may regularise their stay in the neighbouring country.
Initially, Pretoria had set the deadline on December 31 this year, but that has been extended to June 30 next year following wide consultations.
The South African Department of Home Affairs last night said the decision was based on the recommendations made by Dr Cassius Lubisi’s Departmental Advisory Committee (DAC) which was tasked to look into the issues around ZEP by Home Affairs Minister Dr Arron Motsoaledi.
According to the department, Zimbabweans have been granted exemptions in terms of section 13 (2)(2)(b) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002.
“As previously communicated, the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), appointed the Departmental Advisory Committee (DAC) led by Dr Cassius Lubisi to assess the visas application lodged by the affected Zimbabwean nationals,” said the Department in a statement.
“The DHA also appointed an outside legal firm to handle all court challenges relating to the decisions not to extend the exemptions to the Zimbabwean nationals and related matters.
“The Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aron Motsoaledi, received the progress report, and the report states that the DAC has met on several occasions in order to execute its mandate, and their meeting was held for the whole day on September 1, 2022.”
The DAC recommended to Minister Motsoaledi that in view of the progress thus far, it would be prudent for him to consider extending the period within which Zimbabwean nationals will have an opportunity to apply for visas and or waivers for a further six months.
“The Minister has carefully considered the request and decided to extend by a further six months that is 31 December to 30 June 2023,” said the department.
The Department said Minister Motsoaledi had also considered that fewer Zimbabweans had so far applied for visas.
Dr Motsoaledi said his ministry was committed to affording Zimbabweans another opportunity to apply for one or other visas as provided by the Immigration Act.
The directive containing the decision of Minister Motsoaledi will be communicated through diplomatic channels to the Zimbabwean Ambassador (Mr David Hamadziripi) in South Africa.
“The DHA calls upon all affected Zimbabweans to make use of this window of opportunity and not wait for the last moment to lodge their applications as is the case now. There will be no further extension granted by the Minister,” said the Department.
In December last year, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs outlined the road map to be followed by Zimbabweans who hold special dispensation permits in migrating to the mainstream permits in the next 12 months.
This followed a decision by Pretoria recently to discontinue the issuance of special permits for under 178 000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) which will expire at the end of this month.
Under the new order, the Zimbabweans were allowed to migrate to other permits which suit their situation between January 1 and December 31 this year.