By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
29 April 2014
The South African government is being urged to clarify how Zimbabweans can renew the special permits they were granted four years ago, before they expire in November.
Concern has been high ever since a cabinet resolution in March which stated that the permits, granted under the special dispensation period in 2010, would expire this November. Part of that resolution was an indication that the permits could be renewed, but only if the permit holders returned to Zimbabwe to do so.
Since then there has been little in the way of clarification from the South African authorities on how the renewal process will proceed, with many Zim nationals expressing fears of returning to Zimbabwe until there is a guarantee they can get the documents renewed in good time.
In an interview at the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela reportedly said there was no reason to panic.
“I can assure you that the programme will not only see permits being renewed, but will also be extended beyond those who got the first permits. The plan is to give an extra year to those who already had permits, while new applicants will be thoroughly screened this time and required to satisfy some requirements that are still being set by government,” he was quoted by the NewsDay newspaper as saying.
He did not clarify the resolution on people returning home to renew or reapply for permits, saying only that: “Talks are going on between the two governments on how to roll out the second phase in a manner that will benefit both countries.”
Fears about the future have intensified since Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Minister said that South Africa’s permit plans had not been communicated to them. Minister Kembo Mohadi was quoted as saying that the ZANU PF government was not in a position to offer any permits for Zimbabweans based in South Africa.
“The government only issues permits for foreigners who want to work here in Zimbabwe, not the other way round. As far as I am concerned permits for Zimbabweans who want to work in South Africa are done in that country not in Zimbabwe,” he said.
Daniel Muzenda, the spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Migrants Association said the authorities have not clarified the position since the cabinet resolution last month. He said that, with the country heading towards elections in May, Zimbabweans are being left to “wait and see” what is next for them.
“Zimbabweans here see this as an expulsion from South Africa, because they feel they will lose their jobs if they have to return home. We are trying to negotiate an extension of the permits and of the renewal process to see if there is a better way for people than to return home. But now we are waiting to see if a new administration will have a different approach after the elections,” Muzenda said.