By Nqobile Tshili
The South African Cabinet will soon announce a decision on the renewal of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) for nearly 180 000 Zimbabweans based in the neighbouring country.
Zimbabweans have benefitted from special permits since 2010 when the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) was introduced.
DZP was aimed at regularising Zimbabweans residing in the neighbouring country to reduce pressure on the asylum management system.
The permits expired in 2014 before South Africa introduced the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) which lapsed at the end of 2017.
It was followed by the ZEP, which will expire on December 31.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi said Government has been engaged in high-level meetings with South Africa over the permit issue.
“The matter of the ZEP is part of the agenda of the discussions held between Zimbabwe and South Africa in the context of the Bi-National Commission (BNC). Concerning the extension of the permits, the Embassy has had discussions with the relevant authorities in South Africa since the first quarter of the year,” said Ambassador Hamadziripi.
“In May 2021, there was further discussion of the issue when the two countries’ Ministers of Foreign Affairs met in Cape Town. In all these interactions, the government of South Africa informed us that the decision on the renewal of the permits would be taken by their Cabinet and that processes towards that end were in motion.”
Zimbabwe Community in South Africa chairperson Mr Ngqabutho Mabhena said most Zimbabweans were anxious as the year is coming to an end.
“We are waiting for the South African government to make an announcement. We were informed that a decision will be made in November so we are waiting. We do not know what is going to happen, but, of course, people are worried about what is likely to be announced by the Minister of Home Affairs when he decides to make an announcement,” said Mr Mabhena.
He said financial institutions and some employers have started demanding that permit holders renew their permits.
“We have been engaging with both the Zimbabwean and South African governments and made submissions that holders of the ZEP should be granted permanent residence status because they have been resident here for more than 10 years and continue to contribute to the South African economy,” said Mr Mabhena.
“The second option is that if they are not granted permanent residence, they should be granted a long-term visa which is about 10 years or a normal renewal be an option.” The Chronicle