THE Zimbabwe Community in South Africa (ZCSA) has engaged South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs seeking a waiver of some of the requirements for obtaining permits following a decision by that country’s government to discontinue issuance of special permits for about 180 000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP), which will expire at the end of this month.
The South African government recently announced that it will not renew special permits that have been in place for over a decade.
The special permits were first introduced in 2009 as the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) before being extended in 2014 as the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP).
At the expiry of the ZSP in 2017, the neighbouring country introduced the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) that expire on December 31 this year.
After the expiry, there will be no extension but a one-year grace period as Zimbabweans will be free to apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation, with those not eligible expected to return home or face deportation.
In an interview, ZCSA chair Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena said the requirements to be met by applicants to obtain other permits were steep. He said as a result most ZEP holders will be forced to return home unless there is a review.
Mr Mabhena said his organisation has since written to the Department of Immigration seeking a waiver of some of the requirements.
“We have written to the Director General in the Department of Home Affairs seeking that some requirements to obtain other permits be waivered,” he said.
“For example, we have some professions such as teachers, journalists among others who are not listed under critical skills but they are working in South Africa.
“We are seeking that people who hold such professions may be allowed to apply for general working visas so that they may continue working.
“If a person is getting married to a South African or someone who has permanent residence, they obtain a spousal visa. When applying for a spousal visa your partner should be earning a minimum of R8 500.”
Mr Mabhena said they had also appealed to the Director General to revisit the requirements, which ZEP holders would have to meet in order to be granted a business visa. For one to qualify for a business visa they should bring in R5 million into South Africa as investment. He said there were some ZEP holders owning business who had accumulated assets worth more that R5 million but they would not qualify for a business visa.
Mr Mabhena said there were many Zimbabweans running companies in South Africa who were not documented. He said these people did not qualify for business visas as the money was generated in South Africa and was not brought from outside.
Mr Mabhena said there was need for such requirements to be waivered so that ZEP holders could qualify to apply for a business visa based on the assets and capital they have generated in South Africa as opposed to someone bringing the capital as investment.
“In our view, only a few will qualify to move to other permits because the majority of Zimbabwe Exemption Permits are people of low skill like domestic workers and drivers, among others,” he said.
“Most people don’t possess the required qualified qualifications as per critical skills visa. If some of these requirements are not waivered then scores of people will return home after failing to secure other permits.”
Under the new order, Zimbabweans are allowed to migrate to other permits, which suit their situation between January 1 and December 31 next year. After, that those who do not have permits would be expected to return home or they will be deported.
In a statement last week Home Affairs Director General, Mr Livhuwani Tommy Makhode advised institutions including banks, schools and employers to allow the affected ZEP holders to continue with normal services during the 12 months grace period starting next month.
However, this is subject to the production of proof that one has lodged a permit application at the Department of Home Affairs.