ZEP Saga Latest: Joy as govt delivers sweet news to South Africa-based Zimbabweans – ‘Have no fear’

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THE government has said Zimbabweans that will be repatriated from South Africa following the expiration of their extension of stay must not be scared to come back as they will be welcomed without challenges.

Returnees have also been assured that travel documents will not deter them from reentering the country as there are systems in place to ensure that they are admitted with no contestation, while school children will be allowed smooth passage of furthering their education. Port health officials have also said they will conduct necessary checks in line with Covid-19 protocols set by the Ministry of Health and Child Care.

This comes after an announcement by the South African government that they will be renewing critical skills visas and permits only, while the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) for the rest of the Zimbabwean nationals will not be renewed. Zimbabweans were encouraged to regularise their stay with the South African Home Affairs department ahead of the 30 June 2023 deadline when their permits expire.

Nonetheless, the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage has said they have set aside provisions for the smooth return of Zimbabweans.

“They (Zimbabweans) must not be scared as they are returning home. We are ready to welcome them. We have already started making preparations to ensure their smooth return,” said Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Cde Ruth Maboyi-Ncube in an interview with Sunday News.

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She said the Department of Immigration was also aware that there were nationals that were returning and would allow their expeditious passage through the ports of entry.

“The customs and immigration department is in the know and ready to assist. They are also aware that the nationals are returning with property and vehicles and know what to do in that regard. We promise a smooth passage as a Ministry,” she said.

The government has facilitated a duty-free importation of goods, property and vehicles for nationals as they return as they are aware that returnees have accumulated movable property during their stay in South Africa. She said those of school going age will continue with education in Zimbabwe.

“We will ensure they get into our schools as long as they can produce proof of schooling in South Africa. We will then blend them with other learners in our schools. We are yet to meet with the relevant Ministry and discuss the finer details regarding schooling but we see no challenges,” said Mrs Maboyi-Ncube.

Furthermore, the returnees have also been afforded a chance to get identity documentation on their return.

“Our processes have not changed. When they come, they must go straight to the registry department and get national Identity Documents and passports. For those who do not have birth certificates we encourage them to seek birth records from South Africa where they will have been born so that we ensure they get documents here,” she added.

Asked on the issue of documentation for the returnees, the Regional Immigration Officer responsible for the Southern Region Mr Joshua Chibundu said they have various means of proving citizenship for undocumented Zimbabweans.

“We have documented Zimbabweans who have valid passports, then there are others who have no passports or other supporting documents. So, what we have been doing for those who voluntarily return or self-repatriate is to establish if they are Zimbabwean or not and we do that via interviews. If we are satisfied that indeed they are Zimbabwean we allow them back into Zimbabwe. This is what is going to happen for the returnees we are expecting too. We have no business denying them entry if they do not have any documentation as we will now be rendering them stateless if we refuse them entry back into the country,” said Mr Chibundu.

Port Health officials also laid out conditions for movement of people within the borders saying they were ready to facilitate the return of Zimbabweans on the health front, indicating that they were largely concerned about Covid-19.

“We do not have our own protocols as Port Health but we follow the country’s standing orders. Looking at the returnees we use the International Health Requirements Regulations of 2005. We are concerned about Covid-19 so we ask that returnees have at least two dose vaccinations, if they do not have, they must produce a valid PCR test taken within the last 48 hours and if they do not have, we will be doing Covid-19 tests at the border post to ensure that people are free from Covid-19 as they return,” said a Port Health official who declined to be named.

— Sunday News


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