SA opens door for Zimbabweans

Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba

SOUTH Africa yesterday announced that it will renew special permits for close to 250 000 Zimbabweans for another three years, ending weeks of speculation on the dispensation.

Staff Reporter

The work and residence permits were granted in 2010 under a special programme to document Zimbabweans living illegally in that country.

A radical change in South Africa’s immigration regulations announced in May had spawned fears of massive deportations.

However, Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said the new scheme would see the permits extended until 2017.

Zimbabweans can start applying for the renewal of the permits that expire on December 31 as from October 1.

Gigaba said the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project (DZP) would come to an end on December 31 and the successor Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) would come into force.

“As a result, it is important to note that the expiry date of all DZP permits which expire before December 31 2014 is accordingly delayed until December 31 2014,” he said.

“The expiry date of those DZP permits which expire after December 2014, is being brought forward to December 31 2014.

“DZP permit-holders who wish to remain in South Africa after the expiry of their permits, can reapply for the ZSP, subject to certain conditions.

“These conditions include, but are not limited to: A valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clear criminal record.

“The ZSP will allow permit-holders to live, work, conduct business and study in South Africa for the duration of the permit, which is valid until December 31, 2017.”

Gigaba said the new application process would be smoother compared to the initial programme.

“In line with the new, improved process for all visa and permit applications, it will begin online, with appointments given for in-person finalisation at a visa facilitation centre,” the minister said.

“Therefore, there will be no queues as experienced in the past, and we trust applicants will enjoy a pleasant and efficient application experience.”

He said an administration fee would apply, but would be communicated once it had been decided by the Department of Home Affairs and its partner VFS, which will handle applications.

“ZSP permit-holders who wish to stay in South Africa after the expiry of the ZSP, must return to Zimbabwe to apply for mainstream visas and permits under the Immigration Act, subject to the relevant requirements,” Gigaba said.

“These applications will be considered within 12 months of the expiry of the ZSP permits, so from January 2017.

“We will now embark on an extensive stakeholder engagement process, to inform DZP permit-holders and other interested parties about the ZSP process.”

The minister said South Africa remained open to visitors from Zimbabwe and other African countries.

“We welcome Zimbabwe’s return to a path of stability and prosperity, and remain committed to co-operation and partnership with our valued neighbour,” Gigaba said.

“The ZSP is a temporary bridge to the near future when all Zimbabweans will reenter the mainstream immigration process in South Africa.”

The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, a group that has been pushing for the renewal of the permits, welcomed Gigaba’s announcement.

“But there is still more work to be done to help those that will now qualify under the new permit regime,” the group said in a statement.

“We are going to engage Cosatu, SACP and the ANC on the status of Zimbabweans who are working in South Africa, but will not qualify on the new Zimbabwe Special Permit.”

“We call upon those Zimbabweans affected to give us support for us to move forward.”

Thousands of Zimbabweans live and work illegally in South Africa after escaping the punishing economic problems at home.