South African News

Good News: South Africa Extends Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP)

SOUTH Africa’s Home Affairs Department has extended the renewal of permits that expire at the end of this month to December 31. The extension does not apply to Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders whose permits expire on June 30 this year.

Over 170 000 Zimbabweans are based in South Africa under ZEP. In November 2021, South Africa’s Cabinet indicated that it will not make further concessions for ZEP holders, who were then given a grace period to migrate to other mainstream permits.

They have until the end of June this year to get documented after which some will have to return home. In a statement on Wednesday, the Department of Home Affairs said it is extending the deadline to December 31 this year for applicants who are awaiting outcomes of the applications.

“A directive to the Home Affairs Head office, Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s Consular Services and Visa Facilitation Centres has been issued to communicate this decision,” said the Department.

“The decisions mean that long term visa or waiver applicants are permitted to legally remain in the country until 31 December 2023, pending the finalisation of their applications’”.

The department added that those that are travelling on passports issued by countries that are not visa exempted, are required to apply for a visitor’s visa to return to South Africa until their applications are finalised.

In addition, this will only be applicable to applicants who have submitted an application via VFS before March 31, 2023.

Under the new set up, all visitors whose validity was issued for less than 90 days are excluded from the concession and are required to depart before or on the date of expiry of the validity of period of their visas.

In an interview, the legal director of the Immigration Advisory for Southern Africa Mr Gabriel Shumba said the announcement has brought so much relief to several anxious Zimbabweans.

“We do appreciate the extension and we can confirm that many Zimbabweans greet the announcement with huge relief. This is because many who have applied and have been waiting for outcomes were negatively affected at workplaces, with big banks also taking advantage of the uncertainty to freeze people’s savings,” he said.

“The above notwithstanding, we still implore the Department of Home Affairs to unequivocally communicate this message to employers, banks and the police via a communique that can be posted on the Department’s website because the beneficiaries of the circular are often targets for exploitation and abuse since all they have to show is just the Acknowledgement of Receipt of Application from the Visa Facilitation Centre.” |

Mr Shumba said visas are an issue of survival for those who have applied hence the need to attend to the backlog as a matter of urgency.

Already the Zimbabwean government has made a commitment to assist all those who want to return home at the expiry of the ZEP permits.

The returning residents have also been given a special facility by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to ship in all the property fully owned before the date of arrival in the country duty-free.

So far, the district civil protection committee in Beitbridge has identified the government-run reception and support centre and the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) Quarantine and Support centre to house those who would need accommodation upon getting to Beitbridge.

The two centres have a combined carrying capacity of 1600 people including adults and minors daily.

— Chronicle

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