SOUTH Africa has granted international students that include Zimbabweans a temporary reprieve to stay in that country until the end of December following the expiry of their permits.
The South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced on Friday that the country was taking the move following an outcry by the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA) over the situation international students found themselves in after universities postponed examinations due to the recent students strike.
The waiver covers those whose permits either expired in October or are set to expire this month.
“The Department of Home Affairs has granted a waiver to international students who currently have study visas expiring at the end of October or November 2015 following consultations with the International Education Association of South Africa (IEASA),” said Gigaba.
“This intervention seeks to assist international students who’ve been negatively affected by the recent student protests and the subsequent decision by universities to postpone their examinations.”
Gigaba said the affected students will not be deported until December 31.
“These students would under normal circumstances have been declared undesirable elements when leaving the country on expired visas. However, they’ll now be allowed to stay in South Africa until December 31, 2015 and will not be declared undesirable if they exit before the extended date,” said the Minister.
He said students who intend to return to South Africa in 2016 for study purposes will have to follow the usual process of either applying for the renewal of their visas or apply for study visas in their country of origin.
IEASA is in the process of liaising with the affected universities to compile a list of students whose permits expired. “Once received, the list will be communicated to the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that only bonafide students are covered by this provision,” said Gigaba.
Last month’s nationwide protests by thousands of students at South African universities were sparked by a proposed tuition fee hike of between 10 percent and 12 percent in 2016.
The demonstrations began at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand before spreading to at least 10 other universities, forcing the closure of some of the country’s top universities and postponement of examinations.
The protests ended following President Jacob Zuma’s announcement that his government had shelved plans to increase the fees.