Huge sigh of relief as South Africa extends Zimbabweans’ work permits
JOHANNESBURG – The decision by the South African government to extend permits of Zimbabweans working, studying and operating businesses in the neighbouring country has come as a huge relief to thousands of the foreign nationals and millions back home relying on remittances sent from across the Limpopo.
It ends the panic that had gripped the more than 250,000 holders of the
Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) ahead of the four-year document’s expiry at
the end of the year.
Last Friday, SA Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize announced the country will issue new permits, called the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), also valid for four years.
Zimbabwe Communist Party (ZCP) general secretary, Nqabutho Mabhena, who resides in Johannesburg, welcomed the decision.
“This will go a long way in protecting the migrant workers against employers who exploit undocumented migrant workers,” Mabhena said.
He added, “We hope the minister (Mkhize) and her government would in future consider documenting thousands of Zimbabwean migrant workers who are not on special permits.”
Only holders of the ZSP can apply for the new permits, at a cost of R1 090 (about $84).
Mabhena said while the announcement was welcome, Zimbabwe’s government must revive industries to curb the exodus to South Africa where its nationals were vulnerable to abuse by employers in South Africa.
Most risk life and limb crossing the crocodile infested Limpopo. An estimated two million Zimbabweans, out of a population of 14 million, are residing in South Africa where they have sought sanctuary from the two
decades-long economic challenges the country faces.
The opposition accuse the Zanu-PF government of partisan policies which have wrecked the economy, an accusation Zanu-PF vehemently denies.
Instead, Zanu-PF argues it is correcting colonial imbalances which saw the majority black reduced to drawers of water and hewers of wood in their own country.
It says its land reform and indigenisation programmes have resulted in the empowerment of the previously marginalised people.
Mabhena said the ZCP was consulting key stakeholders with a view of holding a national economic dialogue aimed at building blocks towards industrialisation of Zimbabwe.
Advocate Gabriel Shumba, the executive director of Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) told CAJ News Africa in Pretoria that his organisation applauded the decision to extend the permits as it brings the much needed stability and certainty to people’s lives.
“We in particular thank the Department of Home Affairs as well as our Consulate (Zimbabwe) for their untiring commitment to this project.
“That notwithstanding, we are dismayed by reports of arrests of those attempting to renew their asylum permits,” Shumba added.
He urged the South African government to respect international practice by re-engaging migrant stakeholders on this and other issues.
Zimbabwean Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) secretary general, Luke Dzipange Zunga, praised South Africa regarding the documentation of thousands of Zimbabweans.
“The decision is praiseworthy and commendable in that it instills hope, dignity and empowerment of those already absorbed by local industries,” Zunga said.
He said the extension of the Zimbabwe permits showed that “where there is a will, there is a way”.
“The extension means people can continue to work where they were working and to plan their lives,” said Zunga.
Announcing the permits, Mkhize said South Africa believed migrants played an important role in respect of economic development and enriching social and cultural life.
“We remain conscious of the value of this approach. For instance, these dispensations have assisted in enhancing national security and the orderly management of migration,” said Mkhize.
Mkhize was appointed to the cabinet portfolio in March, in place of now-finance minister, Malusi Gigaba, who at the time said he was “still
applying his mind” on the permits.
Zimbabwean migrants in major cities of South Africa expressed relief.
“Personally, I would like to thank our good neighbour South Africa for the gesture,” said Zivanai Clifford Munyoro of Braamfontein. – CAJ News