The South African government says the decision towards the revocation of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) is mainly due to the financial situation, high levels of unemployment as well the prospect of Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.
Thousands of Zimbabweans have been affected by the revocation with the SA government saying the ZEP was meant to be a temporary measure when the economy hit an all-time low in 2008.
In a letter to affected permit holders, Livhuwani Makhode, the Department of Home Affairs Director-General said the ZEP was supposed to end as soon as Zimbabwe showed signs of economic recovery.
“The exemptions granted to the Zimbabwean nationals was and has always been a temporary measure, pending improvement of the economic situation in Zimbabwe,” he stated.
He explained that in 2008 approximately 200 000 people arrived in South Africa seeking asylum, the majority of them being Zimbabwean nationals.
In 2009 another 207 000 arrived also seeking asylum, similarly, the majority of them were Zimbabwean nationals.
Makhode said the extensive nature of asylum applications by Zimbabwean nationals between 2008 and 2009 overwhelmed the administrative capacity of the Department’s Asylum Seeker Management Unit, and resources were overstretched.
He said the Department of Home Affairs had encountered limited capacity to respond to such capacity constraints by virtue of its constrained budget amid COVID-19.
In the 2020/21 financial year, R562 million was cut during the Special Adjustment Budget and a further R301 million during the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework.
In the financial year 2021/22 the Department baseline was cut by R969 million, the bulk of which was for compensation of employees.
Makhode said the DHA was unable to employ more staff members in the immigration services.
“Therefore, it had to prioritise the budget and allocate more resources to civic services, which in essence deals with the rights of South African citizens.”
Makhode noted according to Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force (QLFS) quarter 2 of 2021, South Africa’s unemployment rate increased by 1,8 per cent bringing the overall rate to 34 per cent, the largest recorded since the start of the QLFS in 2008.
Makhode said Home Affairs also realised that some of the Zimbabwean exemptions’ holders were violating the conditions in that about 1 900 were somehow able to apply for waivers in terms of the Immigration Act. Their applications were rejected.
“It goes without saying that a combination of factors led to the lawful, rational and reasonable decision of the Minister (Aaron Motsoaledi).
Zimbabweans have been given a 12 months’ period to apply for one or more of the visas set out in the Immigration Act.
Motsoaledi has also directed that a special team be set up to deal with the anticipated applications for various visas by Zimbabwean nationals.