The South African government says it extending by three years the special residence permits for Zimbabwean migrants living and working in that country.
The permits were issued in 2010 following negotiations between South Africa and Zimbabwean authorities during the unity government era.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba, on Tuesday announced that Pretoria will be extending the Zimbabwe Special Dispensation (ZSD) permits by three more years.
The special dispensation permits, issued in 2010, allowed about 245,000 previously undocumented Zimbabweans to formalise their stay in South Africa, while more than 6,000 bearers of illegally-obtained South African documents were granted amnesty from a crackdown that nabbed thousands others.
Gigaba told reporters in Pretoria after meeting several groups representing Zimbabweans in South Africa that the new programme begins early next year.
But Mr. Gigaba was quick to remind Zimbabweans that there will be conditions attached to the renewal.
The majority of groups representing Zimbabweans in South Africa welcomed the development.
South Africa newspaper BD Live quotes people against suffering and oppression spokesman Braam Hanekom as hailing the move as a welcome relief.
Zimbabwe community in South Africa (ZCSA) chairperson, Ngqabutho Mabhena, concurs but adds that he’s concerned about those Zimbabweans who had not applied fearing prosecution by Pretoria having stayed in the country illegally.
Spokesman Daniel Muzenda, of the Zimbabwe Migrants Association said his group too will continue to push for the inclusion of Zimbabweans who did not initially apply in the special permit scheme.
Thousands of struggling Zimbabweans are expected to continue trekking down south as the country economic problems mount. Unofficial reports say unemployment is hovering around 90 percent in Zimbabwe, leaving many with no choice but look for greener pastures elsewhere.