by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – THOUSANDS of Zimbabweans face an uncertain future in South Africa after the neighbouring country ended a special permit it has granted them over the past 12 years.
The special Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) will end on December 31.
South Africa’s cabinet has granted a 12-month grace period at the expiry of the document.
Announcing the cabinet decision, Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said during this period, the holders of the ZEP permit should apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation.
“At the expiry of this 12-month period, those who are not successful will have to leave South Africa or be deported,” Gungubele announced on Thursday.
This ended speculation as to the next move South Africa would take regarding the permits.
Rumours had been circulating the permits would not be renewed.
The permits have been an emotive issue among some South Africans that are against the issuing of free work permits to foreign nationals at a time the country is facing its highest crisis of unemployment.
South Africa first issued these permits in 2009 under the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Permit. More than 240 000 Zimbabweans secured permits.
The permits were extended by three years under the Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) upon expiry, to the benefit of about 198 000.
About 180 000 ZEP permits are expiring next month.
A majority of Zimbabweans in South Africa apparently are not documented.
Most fled the economic crisis in their country and a marginal number fled political persecution.
– CAJ News