By Mashudu Netsianda
South Africa has granted Zimbabweans holding expired permits permission to travel home during the festive season as long as they have proof that they have applied for new permits that will come into effect on January 1.
Holders of Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) got a reprieve after the South African government gave them the greenlight to continue using the expired ZSP permits until they have been issued with the new Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP).
The newly introduced ZEP permits allow Zimbabweans to continue studying or working in the neighbouring country for the next four years.
The ZEP is valid between January 1 next year and December 31 in 2021. It replaces the ZSP which accommodated close to 200 000 people and expires on December 31 this year.
In a statement, the South African deputy director-general (immigration services), Mr Jackie Mckay, said the Home Affairs department has since communicated with that country’s border authorities to exempt ZSP permit holders from being declared undesirable persons in terms of the Immigration Act when leaving or entering the neighbouring country.
Mr Mckay said the special waiver is only applicable to those who have receipts showing that they have applied for ZEP which will become effective in January, replacing the ZSP.
“The department has notified its officials at ports of entry to allow those who wish to travel to Zimbabwe to do so without hindrance as long as they produce the necessary proof of application, a VFS receipt or proof of payment,” he said.
“In terms of this directive, ZEP applicants will not be marked as undesirable. We will allow all ZEP applicants with a ZSP permit or a visitor’s visa to accompany a parent on the ZSP to travel in and out of South Africa provided they submit the required proof.”
The transitional arrangement follows an approval by the then South African Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize of the new four year permits which expire in 2021.
The submissions of fully completed applications at VFS offices started on October 1 in 2017 and were extended until January 31 in 2018.
The applications are made on www.vfsglobal.com/ZEP/SouthAfrica/com.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring country’s government has also ordered South African companies, learning institutions and banks to continue offering services to ZSP holders until they receive the new permits.
There has been uncertainty among Zimbabweans in the neighbouring country as they were fretting over bank threats to freeze their accounts this month-end when their permits expire. The Chronicle