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Zim urges ZEP holders to comply with SA laws to avoid “punishment”

Following a declaration by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to punish holders of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) who are reluctant to apply for visas and/or waivers, the Zimbabwean government has urged its citizens to comply with South African laws.

South Africa in November last year decided not to renew the ZEP beyond the end of December this year. The decision is likely to affect more than 170,000 Zimbabwean nationals who live, study and work legally in South Africa with the permit.

After extending the validity of ZEP to 30 June next year citing that few Zimbabweans had “thus far applied for visas and/or waivers,” Motsoaledi told the SA Parliament that the ZEP holders who do not apply to be in his country legally would be “punished”.

“The ball is in their court, not in the government’s court. We will deal with them the same way we deal with someone who is in the country illegally and overstayed. There is punishment for that,” Motsoaledi said in August.

Addressing a media post cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the country was anticipating return of ZEP holders.

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She added that a diplomatic engagement between South Africa and Zimbabwe revealed that a few ZEP holders were applying for the alternative visas or weavers. She urged them to comply with the South African laws.

“Cabinet received a Report on the Anticipated Return of Holders of Zimbabwe Exemption Permits from South Africa as presented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Honourable Dr Fredrick Shava,” Mutsvangwa said.

“The nation is being informed that following the decision by the South Africa Government to terminate the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) on 30 June 2023, it is anticipated that there will be a number of returning citizens upon expiry of the permits.

“The nation is being informed that engagements on the issue are being held at the Government to Government level, with the latest ones being held at the Mid-Term Review Meeting of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi National Commission in Pretoria on 10 August 2022.

“The South African Government expressed concern that less than 10% of ZEP holders had applied for the available mainstream visas. The Government of Zimbabwe is encouraging the ZEP holders to comply with the South African laws.

“The nation is further informed that the Government through its institutions is ready to receive its nationals and is working on mechanisms to facilitate the smooth flow of the returnees at the Beitbridge border post,” Mutsvangwa said.

The migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa is driven by political and socio-economic factors such as poverty, low wages, the inaccessibility of passports and human rights violations under the Zanu-PF regime.