BY KHANYILE MLOTSHWA
THE South African government has resolved to stop renewing the Zimbabwean Special Permits (ZEPs) that will expire next month and opted to give the permit holders a year to move to other visas or face deportation.
South African minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, made the announcement yesterday during a media briefing on the outcomes of a Cabinet meeting held in the neighbouring country, where he said unsuccessful visa applicants would have to be deported.
“Following its deliberations, government decided to no longer issue extensions to the Zimbabweans’ exemption and special dispensations,” he said.
“However, Cabinet decided on a 12-month grace period at the expiry of the current Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs). During this period, holders of this permit should apply (for) other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation. At the expiry of this 12-month period, those who are not successful will have to depart the republic or be deported”
Gungubele, however, did not give the reasons for the decision.
Zimbabwean representatives in South Africa insisted that they would seek dialogue with the South African government on the reasons for the decision that will affect about 300 000 ZEP holders.
African Diaspora Forum leader Vusumuzi Sibanda said the South African government gave in to pressure from right-wing elements that include the #PutSouthAfricaFirst movement, knowing full well the courts would reverse the decision.
“The ANC [African National Congress] might be responding to the right-wing that is getting momentum. But this is not the end of the road. There is a court challenge and more is likely to happen on that front. For example, efforts to get this rectified in the courts are likely to be more pronounced,” he said.
Ngungubele had earlier alluded to growing xenophobic sentiments in the country.
“Cabinet noted the rising xenophobic sentiments in some parts of the country against foreign nationals,” he said.
“The onslaught of COVID-19 has affected all people in South Africa and the negative sentiments being perpetuated by a handful of people do not reflect the true state of relations between foreigners, living and working within our communities, and citizens.”
He urged communities to be vigilant and avoid being coerced into hating others.
Zimbabwe Community in South Africa leader Ngqabutho Mabhena said his organisation would engage Cyril Ramaphosa’s government on the decision.
“In the next few weeks and few days, we will be engaging the South African government to understand what informed this decision. Once we have understood what informed this decision, we will then seek to work around the decision and also consult the South African CSOs [civil society organisations], our partners that we have been working with over the years on the documentation of Zimbabweans in South Africa,” he said.
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