SOUTH Africa has piled fresh pressure on Zimbabweans living in that country to return home after Pretoria’s Social Development minister Lindiwe Zulu said nations need to take care of their citizens.
Zulu, who is also chairperson of the ruling African National Congress (ANC)’s international relations subcommittee, made the call on Monday during a discussion on party policy documents.
Her remarks came as Pretoria has given Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs) holders up to December to regularise their stay under new tougher conditions, which have been largely seen as a deliberate ploy to cut the number of expatriates in that country.
Pretoria has said the ZEP permits will not be renewed beyond December.
“When it comes to the issue of Home Affairs, and you were saying maybe we are sending Zimbabweans back to starve, as the ANC, we believe that all countries need to take responsibility for their citizens,” Zulu was quoted as saying by the South African media.
“First and foremost, we take responsibility for our citizens. We make sure that despite the challenges that we have of poverty, unemployment and inequality, we shouldn’t be having South Africans leaving South Africa with almost nothing.
“… leaving South Africa and going to neighbouring countries to go and look for greener pastures when they aren’t even that much of the greener pastures that we can talk about.”
Zulu was a key member of former leader Thabo Mbeki’s mediation team at the inception and implementation of Zimbabwe’s Global Political Agreement that gave birth to the Government of National Unity in 2009.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Foreign Affairs minister Fredrick Shava said he was off duty.
His deputy David Musabayana said: “Call me later, I am in a meeting.”
An estimated 180 000 Zimbabweans could be affected by a decision not to renew the ZEP permits as statistics show that less than 3% of this group had applied to regularise their stay by the end of last month.
ZEPs were introduced in 2009.
South Africa has been tightening screws on Zimbabwean immigrants and other foreign nationals.
There is also a growing chorus from pressure groups in that country to have foreign immigrants deported.
There are no exact statistics on the number of documented and undocumented Zimbabwean immigrants in the neighbouring country, but estimates put the figure at just over three million.