The South African government has finally agreed to issue all illegal Zimbabweans with relevant permits, but warns those who fail to obtain the documents face deportation starting next year.
Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said Thursday that illegal Zimbabweans will be given appropriate documentation provided they have valid Zimbabwean papers.
Under the new arrangement, Harare will issue all its undocumented nationals in South Africa with proper documents, laying the ground for Pretoria to give them necessary papers including work permits, business permits and study permits.
Zimbabweans have up to December 31 to regularize their stay or face deportation thereafter, Maseko said, adding that those who illegally or fraudulently obtained South African identity cards will be spared arrests provided they hand them over to the government.
"After the 31st of December all undocumented Zimbabweans will be treated like all others and their deportation will resume," Maseko said.
Authorities said Harare and Pretoria will establish a joint monitoring committee that will oversee the implementation of the arrangement.
Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa received the news with jubilation. Jabulani Mkhwananzi told VOA Studio 7 that this is the best gift yet, that Zimbabwean illegals have received from South Africa.
Mkhwananzi's sentiments were echoed by Siphamandla Moyo who said playing hide-and-seek with the South African police will now be a thing of the past.
In April 2009, the South African government issued a special dispensation to all illegal Zimbabweans under which it undertook to halt arrests and subsequent deportation until the Zimbabwean crisis had subsided.