THE Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) praised the government for planning to help Zimbabweans return home when their exemption permits expire (ZEP).
South Africa has issued and extended special work and residency permits for skilled Zimbabweans.
An estimated 170 000 holders of the ZEP have till the end of June this year to move to mainstream permits in South Africa.
The last special permissions were awarded in 2017 and in November 2021. The South African Cabinet announced that no additional concessions would be permitted on ZEP holders.
The Department of Home Affairs gave a 12-month grace period up to the end of last month but later extended it until end of June this year.
The returning citizens have been provided a special provision by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to ship in all their belongings before the date of arrival in the national duty-free.
Zimbabwe Exiles Forum chairperson, Advocate Gabriel Shumba said the move by the Government was a step in the right direction.
“We have been regularly engaging with individuals and organizations that are affected by the upcoming repatriation of Zimbabweans from South Africa,” he said.
“We are impressed by the aggressive role that the Consulate has taken in engaging Zimbabweans in South Africa, in particular, Mrs Melody Chaurura (the consul-general) and her team.
In addition, we also commend the engagement that the International Organisation Migration (IOM) has had with several organisations to relieve the issues on the ground”.
Adv Shumba said there was also a need for the Government to educate the border authorities on the correct and proper processes to clear the ZEP permit holders returning home.
He said the duty free component was inspiring however there was a need to have a total waiver on all properties for individuals coming home.
The source added the problem of placement in schools for children of returnees returning from South Africa should also be looked into because the education curricula in the two countries are different.
“While we appreciate the relief given to Zimbabwean returnees in the form of priority clearance and some duty free concessions, we are receiving complaints that implementation remains a challenge for returnees,” said Adv Shumba.
While he praised the duty-free import concession, he worried that persons who have lived in South Africa for 10 years or more will be limited to one car.
Adv Shumba requested a blanket waiver on all returning properties.
He added they’d received distress calls from the crippled, who should be prioritized when coming home.
The Department of Immigration said it will help Zimbabweans return from the neighboring nation when the ZEP expires.
Acting Beitbridge Immigration Head Trustworthy Manatsire said border staff will ensure smooth clearance of returnees.
“We’re ready to help our brothers and sisters if they decide to come home,” he said.
“At the same time, we’ve instructed our police to provide returning residents with clear-out instructions.”
Mr. Manatsire said Zimbabweans who want to return home can contact the Zimbabwean Embassy in South Africa.
David Hamadziripi, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa, stated last week that they are auditing the amount of Zimbabweans planning to return home before their permits expire.
He said, “We’ll map all provinces.”
Our representatives will travel to central locations to meet with ZEP holders.
“We’ll know how many are returning and what kind of help they need.”