Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa without critical skills risk failing to benefit from the extended stay that has been given to Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders.
South Africa Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s recently said they had extended the stay of ZEP holders to the end of June next year, after the initial deadline of 31 December this year. The permits were also extended last year by one year, after being introduced in 2009.
Media reports from South Africa said “after considering numerous factors, including that only a few Zimbabweans have so far applied for other permits to regularise their stay in the country, Motsoaledi announced the six-month extension.”
In an interview with News24, Zimbabwe Community in South Africa chairperson Mr Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena said Zimbabweans have now been given more time to get their affairs in order, although those without critical skills were still in limbo.
“We appreciate the extension. It gives people some bit of time to gather all the necessary documents. What we would try is to send the concerns raised by our members to the South Africa Home Affairs Department.”
He added there were some grey areas around the latest extension.
“There is a lack of clarity around the issue of a waiver, particularly for people who work in low-skill jobs because we are told people should apply for waivers, but according to the requirements in the Immigration Act, a person who applies for a waiver is one who can prove that there is no South African [that] can do the job that one does , even though they don’t have critical skills. So, this has caused a lot of problems for people that are working as domestic workers.”
Those with critical skills are in the fields of medicine, finance, science, Information Communication Technology, agricultural experts, and engineering, among other skilled professions. Mabhena said once clarity was made on people with no “critical skills”, he was hopeful that by December many Zimbabweans would have come forward to regularise their stay in the country.
Last month, News24 reported that only 9 000 of the 178 000 permit holders had made representations about why the department should not terminate their permits. Meanwhile, self-appointed illegal immigrant watchdog Operation Dudula has said it is heading to the apex court to interdict the Home Affairs minister’s extension of the permits.
Zandile Dabula, national secretary-general of the movement, said it rejects the “vague” reasons behind the special advisory committee’s decision.
“Operation Dudula has instructed its attorneys to apply for ‘direct access’ to the Constitutional Court on an urgent basis, with an intent to prevent the minister of Home Affairs [from extending the] ZEP. If Zimbabwean permit holders were serious about legalising their stay in South Africa, [they] would have taken advantage of the opportunity presented by the Department of Home Affairs. Failure to make representations could mean the current permit holders don’t have valid legal grounds to advance or consciously elect to ignore legalising their stay in South Africa,” said Dabula.
— Sunday News