PRETORIA — South Africa yesterday said around 250 000 Zimbabweans living in the country on temporary visas due to expire this year can get three-year extensions, delaying a possible mass expulsion of workers.
Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba said a scheme that allowed Zimbabweans to flee the political crisis at home on four-year work visas would be extended until 2017.
“The new special permit is valid only for three years,” Gigaba said, making it clear this was only a reprieve for worried Zimbabweans.
Following violence-tainted elections in 2008 and land grabs that spooked investors, Zimbabwe plunged into a deep recession that saw sky-high unemployment and hyperinflation running into the billions of percent.
Zimbabweans can be found across South Africa working in the mining, retail, service and financial sectors.
Gigaba said those on special permits who would like to stay on in South Africa after 2017 will have to return to Zimbabwe to apply for permits under the normal immigration rules, if they qualify.
He also paid special tribute Zimbabwean migrants especially those employed in the health and education sectors.
South Africa in May introduced immigration reforms aimed at tightening visa regulations and closing loopholes. —AFP