THE decision made by South Africa to extend work and residence permits for almost 250 000 Zimbabwean immigrants for another three years, will give the Zimbabwe government temporary relief, but it is also a serious call to action.
South Africa first granted the undocumented Zimbabwean illegal immigrants the special permits in 2010.
The permits under the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project (DZP) are due to expire on December 31 and this had caused anxiety among beneficiaries especially after South Africa introduced tough immigration rules.
However, Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said a new scheme would see the permits extended until 2017.
The new system known as Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) would see all permits issued under the DZP being renewed.
Gigaba announced that the ZSP would allow permit-holders to live, work, conduct business and study in South Africa for the duration of the permit.
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, the minister noted.
The Zimbabwean government was very worried about the likelihood of South Africa refusing to renew the permit system so much that Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi had to travel to South Africa to meet Gigaba over the matter.
Mohadi’s fears were justified because a decision not to renew the permits would have meant that a whole army of 250 000 jobless people were going to be forced to return home at a time the economy is failing to create jobs for the majority who are not employed in this country.
Company closures and job losses have become the order of the day in Zimbabwe and the government does not seem to know how to stop the bleeding.
The two million jobs promised by President Robert Mugabe’s government are nowhere to be seen.
But as Gigaba indicated in his remarks on Tuesday, South Africa cannot be a permanent refuge for Zimbabwe’s unemployed.
The government needs to come up with strategies to stem both irregular immigration and unemployment to stop Zimbabweans from overburdening other countries.