Zimbabwe nationals in the dark over SA permit status

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Special permits will expire at end of 2017, forcing Zimbabweans to apply for visas as the ‘government cannot offer permanent residence to so many’

Lobby groups representing Zimbabweans holding special permits said on Wednesday they were still waiting for clarity from the Department of Home Affairs on the status of their permits.

Many officials at Home Affairs erroneously believed individuals could not hold other types of permit while on the special permit, although holders were only barred from extending or changing conditions of the same permit while in SA, Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF) Advocate Gabriel Shumba said in a statement.

In a joint statement from several groups, representatives of Zimbabwean special interest groups said they would intensify lobbying efforts to get clarity from the department, including on the need to return to Zimbabwe for new forms of documentation, and clarity on under which circumstances those holding permits could automatically migrate to new types of visas.

Other concerns include those who lacked certain documentation — not needed for special permits — sometimes due to leaving rapidly due to political violence.

Some 197,000 Zimbabwean nationals hold the three-year Special Dispensation Permit, which was introduced in 2009 and has undergone renewals. The Department of Home Affairs has said once the current permit expires on December 31 2017 this would not be renewed.

At a briefing in February, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said the new permit would not be renewed, and Zimbabweans would need to apply for other forms of documentation, such as work or study visas.

“We can’t offer permanent residency for such a high number of people,” said Gigaba. The government would, however, not take any decision that would “leave hundreds of thousands of people on the street without documentation”, Gigaba said.-BusinessLive