Out of the 178 000 Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders, less than 6000 have so far made presentations to South African Department of Home Affairs justifying why they should be given renewal to remain in the country when the December deadline lapses, leaving the remaining holders in danger of having their documents terminated.
Reports from South Africa suggest that many are now making frantic efforts to get their documents sorted as December fast approaches.
But a big proportion however face the difficulty of meeting the criteria for alternative immigration permits.
These visa applications are R1,750 per visa, plus an additional R800 for the SA Police clearance certificate, plus medical and radiological reports.
In November 2021, South Africa’s government announced the ZEPs would be terminated and holders were directed to obtain other forms of residency by December 31, 2022, or leave South Africa
In June 2022, Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) filed a lawsuit to overturn Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi’s decision to cancel ZEPs, which had provided some 178 000 Zimbabweans with legal protection and allowed them to reside, work, and study in South Africa.
Early this month Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Frederick Shava, said the government is ready to welcome back its citizens who have lived in South Africa under the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) putting to bed any hopes that Harare would persuade its southern neighbor to for an extension.
“The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit will expire at the end of this year. Its expiry is naturally causing much anxiety to the holders of this permit,” said Shava while co-chairing the mid-term review of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) with International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.
“Our two governments must work closely in the implementation of this decision. We are ready to receive our nationals back home,” he said.
Most Zimbabweans living in South Africa are not prepared to return home due to worsening economic conditions yet they are also not prepared to present their case to the South African Home Affairs department for fear of their permit applications being turned down.
Recently, South Africa’s Home Affairs Director-General Livhuwani Tommy Makhode said Zimbabwe is in a much better state than it was when asylum was first warranted hence it was time for them to go home.