JOHANNESBURG – ZIMBABWEANS who have applied for the new special dispensation permit (SDP) can go home and return to South Africa over the festive season, Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba announced.
He said those with the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project permit would be allowed in and out of the country while they waited for their SDP applications to be approved.
Around 64% of the 249 000 Zimbabweans working in the country on a dispensation permit have already applied for the new permit since October 1. Applications close on December 31. The new permit will be valid until the end of 2017.
Zimbabwean nationals in the country illegally were granted an opportunity from 2009 to legalise their stay via the permit as a result of the political and socioeconomic conditions in their country.
Only those with this initial permit would be allowed to apply for the SDP. Those without permits would have to go through the normal routes to obtain a work, travel, or study visa.
Gigaba said SDP applications were submitted via a website. Applicants would be issued with a barcode, a track and trace number, and a date for a face-to-face interview.
Gigaba visited the Cape Town branch of VFS Global — the company dealing with the applications — yesterday morning to assess the process.
People patiently queued for their interview while holding onto their passports and proof of employment, business, or study.
Biometric photographs and fingerprints were taken. Fingerprints were submitted to the police’s automatic fingerprint identification system to check for criminal records and results were returned within two days.
Gigaba said completed applications were then submitted electronically to Home Affairs for adjudication and concluded within a month to two months.
Just over 20% of applications had been adjudicated so far.
He anticipated that all permits should be issued by the end of April.
“All that we are saying for now is that after 2017, they will have to apply for a normal visa applicable in South Africa,” Gigaba said.
No decision had yet been made as to whether Zimbabweans would have to return to their country after 2017 to apply for normal visas.
Gigaba said they would soon begin a similar permit process for the Basotho, Mozambicans and other Sadc nationals.
“The processes are not going to be open-ended,” he said.
“We are going to be strict about it.”
There are 11 visa facilitation centres in the country and four new centres for Gauteng, Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, where there had been a high number of applications.
One of the Zimbabweans handing over her documents at the Cape Town branch on Thursday was surprised when Gigaba came to greet her.
“He was asking me if we are happy with the process there and I told him I am very much happy,” said 49-year-old Mavis Tarinda.
Gigaba asked about her work and she told him she had set up her own business selling curtains and other items. She said applying for a SDP was much easier than the initial permit.
“It was difficult, very complicated. Now we don’t have to struggle for a long time. You just come to your appointment and you are set.”