By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
01 August 2014
The South African government is set to renew the permits it issued under a special dispensation project, which enabled Zimbabweans who had been in that country illegally a chance to regularise their stay.
The decision will mark the end of a series of meetings with Zim Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and serious lobbying from the Zim Community in SA.
The special permits were issued to at least 230,000 Zimbabweans who responded to SA’s call for applications under the scheme, and were valid for five years. Some have expired while the rest will expire in November.
The permits offered relief to thousands of Zimbabweans who had been working and living in South Africa illegally after fleeing hardships or persecution from the Mugabe regime.
In May Pretoria indicated that Zimbabweans could renew these permits, but only if they return to Zimbabwe to apply. This sparked an outcry from worried Zimbabweans, many of whom are asylum seekers.
This whole week, Zim Home Affairs Minister Mohadi has been meeting with both his SA counterparts and concerned Zimbabweans to discuss the permit issue amid indications that Pretoria has relented.
Mohadi would not say what the outcome of these meetings has been, saying he would do so later on Friday.
But Nkosilathi Moyo, one of the negotiators and secretary of the Zim Community in SA, confirmed to SW Radio Africa that Pretoria had acceded to their petition.
Moyo said his group will make the details of the agreement public late Friday or Saturday morning, but the direction of the talks is that the permits will be renewed.
“From the meetings we’ve held over the past three days, with the SA government and Minister Mohadi, we have made progress in terms of those who were on the special permits some of which had expired or are close to expiring.
“The SA authorities have finally agreed to renew the permits from within South Africa without the need for Zimbabweans to travel to their home country.
“We have one more meeting Friday and the details of the renewal process will hopefully be announced Saturday morning, spelling out where exactly people should go to renew.
“We also got a commitment from the Zim government through Minister Mohadi to enable asylum seekers to renew their passports without having to leave SA.
“So after the meeting this afternoon we expect a joint statement from the SA and Zim governments detailing what has been discussed and agreed on,” Moyo said.
Ngqabutho Mabhena, who leads the Zim Community in SA, said they asked for a joint communiqué to enable his team to follow up on the promises that will be made by both governments.
During the talks Zimbabweans pointed out to the SA government the complexities and disruptions that would be caused to their families and employers by a move to Zim just for the purpose of renewing permits.
There are suggestions however that permit holders who committed criminal offences will not have their documents renewed.
There are at least two million Zimbabweans living and working in SA. While some are there legally, thousands others are undocumented and this week’s discussions also focused on those without papers, with the Zim community asking SA to extend the permits to this group as well.