NEARLY 200 000 Zimbabweans working in South Africa face deportation and loss of jobs upon expiry of their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) on December 31 this year if they do not migrate to other eligible permits.
There are four different permits available namely, student visa, business visa, spousal visa and work permit visa and applicants must find one that best suits their situation.
However, there are strict conditions for getting the permits. This has led to the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa holding marathon meetings with the ruling African National Congress (ANC) as well as members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in an effort to find common ground and avert a potential deportation disaster.
The ZEP cancellation and requirement to apply for a new visa aligns with the department’s review of all visas issued from as far back as 2004, but Zimbabweans are the only ones who have to reapply for a visa at the moment.
For one to get a student visa, they ought to provide proof of being admitted to a registered learning institution in terms of section 1 of the South African Schools Act, 1996 as well as a college established in terms of the Further Education and Training Colleges Act, 2006.
Students are required to provide proof of medical cover renewed annually for the period of study with a medical scheme registered in terms of the Medical Schemes Act.
To get a work visa, the applicant must prove they are filling a critical skill post and that their employer cannot find an equally qualified South African for the job.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena, said talks with the ANC party and parliamentarians were underway.
“As Zimbabwe community in SA, working with the African Diaspora Forum, we are in talks with the ruling ANC as well as the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs because these are policymakers. You will note that the ANC is going for a policy conference in July and we are raising these issues with them to highlight that while we respect the ANC-led Government’s position, we believe there is room to review that decision given that maybe there was no proper analysis,” he said in an interview.
“We believe perhaps there was an assumption that everyone would be able to move to other permits with no regards to people with no skill and these are issues we are raising with the ANC as a political party,” said Mr Mabhena.
He said while there has not been tangible positions from the talks, they shall continue with engagement and keep communication lines open.
“We also understand the pressure on the ground because unemployment is rising and stands at 35 percent while we are also alive to the fact that some political parties used these statistics to win votes in the 2021 local government elections so I can not say for certain that they are listening to us or not but what is key is that we are talking,” said Mr Mabhena.
The South African Home Affairs department estimates that 178 412 Zimbabweans were granted exemptions.
According to a critical skills list released by the Home Affairs Minister Dr Pakishe Aaron Motsoaledi on February 2 this year, there are 101 jobs that meet the set requirements. The jobs and are mostly sciences-related and the qualifications needed make it almost impossible for the generality of Zimbabweans working in South Africa to get the visa.
According to the South African Department of Home Affairs website, from time to time the Minister of Home Affairs publishes a Critical Skills list in a Government Gazette. Prior to submitting an application for a Critical Skills Work Visa, the applicant is required to have his or her foreign qualification(s) translated by a sworn translator into one of the official languages of the Republic and to have such qualification(s) evaluated by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA).
The applicant is also required to obtain written confirmation(s) from a professional body, council or board recognised by SAQA or any relevant government department confirming the skills or qualifications of the applicant and appropriate post-qualification experience.
In the event that any law in South Africa requires one to be professionally registered in order to practice one’s profession, the application must contain proof of an application made for a certificate of registration with the professional body, council or board recognised by SAQA.
Business visa applicants need to have a certificate showing that they have at least R5 million available in cash, or at least R5 million in cash and capital to be invested in South Africa.