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South Africa Discontinues Zimbabwe Special Exemption Permits, Gives Holders 12 Months to Regularize Status

South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) president, Cyril Ramaphosa
South Africa and Africa National Congress (ANC) president, Cyril Ramaphosa

The South African government says it will no longer extend Special Zimbabweans Exemption Permits (ZEP) for thousands of Zimbabweans.

In a statement posted on the government’s communications website, Cabinet spokesperson, Phumla Williams, said all Zimbabweans, whose permits expire at the end of this year, will be given a grace period of 12 months to apply for other visas.

“Cabinet considered the much talked about ZEP and also noted the fake news being spread on these permits. The first Zimbabwean special dispensation started in 2009 and was called the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Permit. It provided for the documentation of qualifying Zimbabweans for a five-year period.

“In 2014, the dispensation was extended by three years and called the Zimbabwean Special Permit. The current ZEP was initiated in 2017 and comes to an end on 31 December 2021. Following its deliberations, Cabinet decided to no longer issue extensions to the Zimbabwean special dispensations. However, it decided on a 12 months grace period at the expiry of the current ZEP.”

In a statement, the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa said affected Zimbabweans should start working on regularizing their status.

“The decision also means that those that are unable to move to other visas in the next 12 months will be asked to leave the Republic of South Africa or face deportation. We respect this decision on the basis that it is a sovereign decision made by a sovereign government informed by its own prevailing conditions. We are therefore not contesting the decision. In the next few days and weeks we will be engaging the South African government to understand what informed this decision. Once we understand what informed this decision, we will then seek to work within this decision and we will also consult South African civil society who are our partners whom we have worked with all these years on the documentation of Zimbabweans in South Africa.”

The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa urged Zimbabweans to desist from trying to negotiate with the South African government through social media.

“We noted a media frenzy generated by one journalist in Harare who claimed to having been spoken to his sources in government in South Africa whom he claimed told him these permits will be renewed for another five years. This created a lot of problems even within the South African community enough that the South African government through the department of Home Affairs had to issue a statement on the 19th of November 2021 damning such allegations and cautioning against undue pressure mounted on them through false news and proclamations. We call upon such journalists and such individuals to desist from doing such.

“Let us allow the leadership of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa and its civil society partners and all progressive elements to get clarity from the Government of South Africa and engage its partners the progressive forces of society. We call for level headedness and ask people to start to assess their alternative visa options carefully and not to make random decisions. We call on employers and other institutions to be patient with our people as they navigate these circumstances and be as helpful as possible.”