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ZIMBABWEANS living and working in South Africa heaved a huge sigh of relief Tuesday after Pretoria extended by a further three years special permits issued in 2010.
The announcement put to an end the anxiety that had gripped thousands of Zimbabweans who feared that they would be deported back home at the expiry of their permits in December.
South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba made the announcement at a press briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday.
“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,” Gigaba 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.”
The minister, who recently met his counterpart from across the Limpopo over the issue, said South Africa was creating a “new Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit of 2014″, known in short as ZSP.
“The ZSP will allow permit-holders to live, work, conduct business and study in South Africa, for the duration of the permit, which is valid until December 31, 2017,” Gigaba said.
“We welcome Zimbabwe’s return to a path of stability and prosperity, and remain committed to cooperation and partnership with our valued neighbour.
“The ZSP is a temporary bridge to the near future when all Zimbabweans will re-enter the mainstream immigration process in South Africa.
“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.”
Applications for the permits would open on October 1, 2014 and close on December 31, 2014.
Gigaba said all permits which expire before December 31, 2014 would be deemed not to have expired until the last day of the year. He added that all permits that are expiring after December 31, 2014 would be brought forward to December 31, 2014.
To apply for the permit, individuals should provide “a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clear criminal record”.
He said the South African government had opened four new offices in Gauteng, Western Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga to deal with the applications.
Gigaba said South Africa appreciated the many contributions made by Zimbabweans in the country’s economy.
“Zimbabweans have made notable contributions in our education and health sectors for example, as teachers and health professionals, and in many other sectors,” he said.
The minister added that South Africa was however mindful of the fact that Zimbabwe needed its human resource base for economic development.
” … but (we) accept that for the time being, many DZP permit-holders would prefer to continue their stay in South Africa. Our management of immigration is also informed by our foreign policy, one feature of which is Pan-Africanism,” he said.
“South Africa recognises itself as an integral part of the African continent and therefore understands its national interest as being intrinsically linked to Africa’s stability, unity, and prosperity.
“We are committed to manage immigration in a way which treats all visitors humanely, in an efficient manner and according to our own deeply-embedded human rights ethos.”
At least 245,000 Zimbabweans are registered under the special permits.
Source : New Zimbabwe