ZIMBABWEANS working in South Africa have received a reprieve after the South African government announced a new three-year work permit dispensation yesterday.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said the new Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) would allow permit-holders to live, work, conduct business and study in South Africa until December 31, 2017.
He said the ZSP was a temporary bridge which would eventually allow all Zimbabweans to re-enter the mainstream immigration process in South Africa.
He said applications under the new dispensation would open on October 1, 2014, and close on 31 December.
Zimbabweans in South Africa have been facing an uncertain future after the government there announced that it would not automatically renew permits given under the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project (DZP) in 2009. Permits granted under that facility expire in December and Zimbabweans were supposed to return home to apply for new work permits.
The anxiety caused by expiry of the permits saw Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi going to meet his South African counterpart to discuss the way forward.
During the DZP, a total of 295,000 Zimbabweans applied for the permits and over 245, 000 permits were issued, while the remainder were rejected due to lack of passports or non-fulfillment of other requirements.
Gigaba said the South African cabinet approved the new permit on August 6 following his engagement with Minister Mohadi.
“The approaching expiry date has caused anxiety for many permit-holders, particularly those who are not ready to return to Zimbabwe as they contemplate their next steps.
“The Department of Home Affairs has been considering this matter for some time.
“I recently met with my Zimbabwean counterpart, Minister Kembo Mohadi, to discuss matters of mutual concern, including the imminent expiry of the DZP,” he said.
“While we note the ongoing political and economic recovery in Zimbabwe, consistently supported by the South African government, we are aware that it will take time for her to fully stabilise.”
Gigaba said to qualify for the new permit, applicants needed a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clean criminal record.
He said applications would be processed by Visa Facilitation Services which would open four new offices in provinces where they anticipated large numbers of applicants, namely Gauteng, Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga.
“These are in addition to the 11 offices already open, all of which will deal with ZSP applications.
“In line with the new, improved process for all visa and permit applications, applications will begin online, with appointments given for in-person finalisation at a visa facilitation centre.
“Therefore there will be no queues as experienced in the past, and we trust applicants will enjoy a pleasant and efficient application experience.
“An administration fee will apply, which we will communicate once it has been decided, after the completion of discussions between the department and VFS,” said Gigaba.
But, he said, Zimbabweans granted the new ZSP permit who wished to stay in South Africa after its expiry, would need to return to Zimbabwe to apply for mainstream visas and permits under the Immigration Act.