THE fate of Zimbabweans in South Africa with documents acquired through the special dispensation is yet to be decided, new Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said yesterday.
“The permits, now called visas, which they were granted, expire this year and we now need to decide on what shall happen going forward. We are in the process of discussion,” Gigaba said in Pretoria.
“In that regard, your friends (Zimbabweans) will have to bear with me. I have been in my new job for three days and I could not have been briefed about everything,” Gigaba said.
He said “a lot of thinking” needed to go into the deliberations before the government announced its stance on immigrants from Zimbabwe.
The work permits issued under the special dispensation will expire, starting this year. On several occasions, the Home Affairs department has said it will clarify the matter.
The department’s figures indicate that almost 250 000 people received the permits under the Zimbabwe Document Project.
In March, then Home Affairs minister Naledi Pandor said permit holders would be expected to reapply for their permits in their country of origin. Yesterday, Gigaba said the controversial new visa regulations for visitors to South Africa were fully constitutional.
“We have not only tested it in both the National Assembly and the NCOP (National Council of Provinces) but have consulted senior counsels to ascertain the constitutionality of both the legislation and its regulations.
“If anybody feels that they must challenge the constitutionality of these regulations, they are most welcome to approach the Constitutional Court.”
The regulations, which came into effect on Monday, introduce a new visa regime for South Africa.
The regulations draw a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits. They stipulate that visa applications need to be made by applicants in person, and those wanting to change the status of their visa can no longer do so in South Africa, but have to do so at missions abroad.
Several organisations have criticised the amendments to the immigration regulations, which came into effect on Monday.
Global Migration South Africa said the amendments were unconstitutional and could result in litigation against the government.
“These new regulations may trigger a raft of litigation with respect to obvious omissions and constitutional issues,” Global Migration SA managing director Leon Isaacson said in a statement.
Earlier this week, the Forum of Immigration Practitioners of South Africa said the newly gazetted immigration regulations had an array of shortcomings which would make it impossible to apply for a work visa or any other visa.