UNCERTAINTY has gripped thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa after the host country announced on Wednesday that all special dispensation permits issued since 2009 are expiring on December 31 this year.
BY SILAS NKALA
In a statement, South Africa’s Home Affairs minister, Hlengiwe Buhle Mkhize, urged Zimbabweans with valid passports to renew their permits before the expiry date to avoid deportation.
“The impending expiry of these permits has caused much anxiety with a great many of the 245 000 successful applicants. The Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit Current (DZP) permit-holders, who wish to remain in South Africa, after the expiry of their permits, can reapply for the ZSP, subject to certain conditions,” Mkhize said.
She said these conditions include, but are not limited to a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study, and a clean criminal record.
Mkhize said successful applicants will receive new permits valid until December 31, 2020.
“Applications can only be made between June 1 2017 and December 31 2017. Applications must be made via visa facilitation services (VFS), and adjudicated by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Applications will begin online, with appointments given for in-person finalisation at a visa facilitation centre,” she said.
“An administration fee will apply but is yet to be divulged. ZSP permit-holders who wish to stay in South Africa after the expiry of the ZSP, must return to Zimbabwe to apply for mainstream visas and permits under the Immigration Act, subject to the relevant requirements.
“The expiry date of those DZP permits which expire after December 2017, is being brought forward to December 31 2017. This of course now provides VFS with a significant challenge — the processing of an additional 245 000 applications in just 3 months.”
This means that there are 80 000 potential applicants per month.
The minister said her government had opened four new offices in Gauteng, Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, to facilitate the vetting of applicants and issuance of new permits.
A representative of Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa, Ngqabutho Mabhena, confirmed the anxiety among Zimbabweans, with some expressing doubts on South Africa’s capacity to process all applications before the deadline.