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SA Home Affairs extends deadline for new Zimbabwe Exemption Permit

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South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs has extended the closing date for applications for the new Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) to February 15, 2018, in order to accommodate Zimbabweans who are battling to get their new passports, GroundUp reports.

The cut-off date of November 30, 2017 was first extended to January 31, 2018 and then on Wednesday to February 15, 2018.

Last week GroundUp reported that some Zimbabweans risked missing the January 31 deadline to apply for a ZEP because of a bureaucratic hurdle.

In a press statement, Home Affairs stated that by January 29, 2018, a total of 176 605 applicants had completed the process, which includes keeping their appointments with VFS and submitting supporting documents and biometrics.

The extension to February 15, 2018 was only for submitting fingerprints and supporting documents and for applicants who had submitted online applications by November 30, 2017 but had not paid the prescribed fee, the department said.

“New applications will not be accepted. By the end of September 2018, the department plans to have completed the whole project, including finalising adjudications and issuing out of all new permits.”

The department said by the closing date for online applications, November 30, 2017, a total of 196 006 applications had been received. No applications were accepted after the closing date.

(Editor’s note: According to the department’s figures for applications received and completed applications, it would appear that over 19 000 people have until February 15 to complete the process.)

The Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP), which started in 2014 with 197 951 permits issued, expired on December 31, 2017.

ZEP permit holders will be allowed to work, study or conduct business in South Africa. The permits are valid for up to four years from January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2021.

“Exemption permits, like the ZEP permits, are not permanent or long-term. They only serve a specific purpose with a view ultimately to have people returning to their countries of origin, to build their lives anew,” said the department.

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DIASPORA

Zimbabweans in SA anxiously await Home Affairs announcement on permit extension

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Thousands of holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) are living in uncertainty because the South African government has not yet indicated whether it will renew their permits. About 180 000 Zimbabweans hold ZEPs. The four-year permit expires on 31 December 2021.

Some Zimbabweans said their banks had already warned them to renew their permits or face closure of their accounts in December.

The permits were first issued in 2010 under the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (ZDP). The programme was renewed in 2014 as the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP), before the ZEP was introduced in 2017.

Zimbabwe nationals desperate to resolve ZEP renewals
A Zimbabwean, who we will only identify as Matthew, said he can’t make plans for the future. He is a supervisor at a restaurant and lives in New Brighton with his wife and two children. He has been living in South Africa for 20 years.

“I started with an asylum seeker permit before I got the ZDP, ZSP and the ZEP. I have lived in this country for the better part of my adult life. It will be heartbreaking if the government refuses to renew the permits.

“I have two bank accounts and insurance as well as burial policies. These will all go down the drain if the government refuses to extend the permits.”

He said he is established in the community and his children speak fluent Xhosa. “They identify themselves with local culture because they were born here,” he said.

Another ZEP holder said South Africa should grant citizenship to those who have lived legally in the country for five or more years.

“Some people have invested a lot in the country. Others have bought immovable property, which they will be forced to leave,” he said.

Home Affairs mum on ongoing delays
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Migrants Support Network Chris Mapingure said, “We appeal to the Department of Home Affairs to issue a statement regarding the renewal of the ZEP.”

Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum Advocate Gabriel Shumba said he is receiving an unprecedented number of enquiries from concerned permit holders.

“It is an issue that seriously affects thousands of Zimbabweans, especially with some banks threatening to close accounts.”

Home Affairs spokespersons Siya Qoza and David Hlabane have not responded to GroundUp’s queries.

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DIASPORA

Zimbabweans In SA Ask Government To Reduce Passport Processing Fees

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Zimbabweans based in South Africa have appealed to government to reduce the passport processing fees saying they could not afford the current costs since their income has been negatively affected by COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, said they had not been spared the COVID-19 economic hardships and hence the request for downward review of passport fees.

Zimbabweans based abroad are expected to pay US$318 for new passports. “We call on the government to reduce the passport fee in solidarity with the working people who are under global lockdown following the outbreak of coronavirus,” the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa spokesperson, Bongani Mazwi Mkwananzi said.

“A caring government will reduce the passport fees by at least 50% and still recoup passport production costs.”

The Registrar-General’s office says it is failing to clear a backlog of 300 000 applications due to foreign currency shortages to import consumables such as ink, films, ribbon and passport paper.

They also want the embassy in that country to be fully equipped to process passport applications, rather than the current situation where they have to return to Zimbabwe to hand in the application forms.

Zimbabwe Community in South Africa spokesperson, Bongani Mazwi, was quoted by the Herald newspaper on Thursday as saying that the organization had since engaged Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa over the matter.

“We call on the government to reduce the passport fees in solidarity with the working people who are under global lockdown following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mazwi said.

He said the government could cut the passport fee by 50 percent and still recoup production costs.
The request by Zimbabweans in South Africa comes after the Zimbabwe government announced that its diplomatic mission in South Africa had introduced a gradual resumption of consular services to facilitate the repatriation of those in need of returning home.

This follows the recent relaxation of lockdown measures by the South African government.

The Zimbabwean government last year introduced a policy to charge citizens living in the Diaspora in U.S. dollars for production of passports, as a way to help it raise foreign currency to import consumables required in production of passports.

It pegged the fee at $318 US dollars.

Most Zimbabweans living in the Diaspora have had their income streams affected by the pandemic, with students in particular, being the most affected.

This has resulted in many students opting to come back home, with government in some cases assisting with their repatriation.

“It has become painfully clear that one must fork out this huge amount to get a passport processed, otherwise they will wait months for a passport to be issued. Many have reported that they were told to top-up as long as their passports hold a work permit,” Mkwananzi said as he lamented the slow pace it takes the RG’s office to process passports.

Government in March this year gazetted Statutory Instrument 61 of 2020 to enable applicants to pay passport fees in foreign currency

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DIASPORA

Ramaphosa: We are reviewing foreign special permits

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special permits

Foreigners in South Africa must brace for possible huge changes in immigration laws as the country plans to tighten screws on the employment of foreigners.

Last week President Cyril Ramaphosa told Parliament that he has put in place an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) that will review employment laws. He mentioned that the IMC will look into the special dispensation permits awarded to Zimbabwean and Lesotho citizens in the country.

“The IMC will also review the decisions on special dispensation work permits, amendments to our Immigration Act, Employment Services Act and labour migration management,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the country will ensure that they employ only skilled foreigners. “We must ensure that our approach to the employment of foreign nationals provides and addresses the issue of scarce critical skills that we need to grow our economy,” said Ramaphosa.

The issue of foreigners has been a hot topic in the past few years with jobless South African citizens calling for foreigners to leave. The country has witnessed several incidents of attack on foreign nations in the past decade. Recently, foreign truck drivers were attacked by local drivers who demanded companies to employ only locals.

“In the end, we need to deal with the challenge our people always talk about, a challenge of foreign nationals who are here in great numbers in our country. We need to deal with it properly, politically and we need to deal with it historically,” added Ramaphosa.

Recently top Cabinet ministers such as Tito Mboweni and Fikile Mbalula have openly advocated for employment of locals ahead of foreigners.

Ramaphosa, however called locals not to blame foreigners for the current economic woes the country is going through. – DiasporaLIVE

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