THE anxiety of hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean migrant workers in South Africa about their future will be eased after Pretoria yesterday approved reissuance of Zimbabwe special permits, although the neighbouring country said the visas were conditional.
By Everson Mushava
In a statement yesterday, the South African government agreed to extend the special dispensation for hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, whose permits were due to expire at the end of this year.
“Cabinet (on Tuesday) approved that the Department of Home Affairs can reopen the reapplication process for the current Zimbabwean Special Permit holders, under certain conditions,” part of the statement read.
“The initial Special Dispensation for Zimbabweans was approved in April 2009 to document Zimbabwean nationals, who were in South Africa illegally.”
The permits were due to expire on December 31, 2017, raising consternation among Zimbabweans, as the South African government had remained silent on the issue.
Former Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba had hinted that the permits would not be renewed and Zimbabweans had to apply for visas like migrants from other countries.
“The Minister of Home Affairs, Hlengiwe Mkhize, will hold a separate briefing to explain the conditions and the process to be followed once the reapplication opens,” the government statement added.
More than 250 000 Zimbabweans were issued with special permits in 2009, which were renewed in 2014 and were due to expire this year.
Some locals were toying with the idea of suing the South African government over the special permits, as tensions rose.
Zimbabwe Community in South Africa (ZCSA) chairperson Ngqabutho Mabhena had pleaded for calm from the 250 000 migrant workers.
The lobby group’s spokesperson, Bongani Mkhwananzi, in March said they had received enquiries on the renewal of the permits.
“The ZCSA is confident that after the minister and his peers in government and political circles have applied their minds and considered the requests and input we also have presented, an official announcement will be made,” he said then.
“We cannot promise a favourable announcement, but are confident the minister understands the plight of the permit holders and will give a reasonable response and way forward.”
South African authorities recently met Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo over the issue.