JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Zimbabwe’s embassy in South Africa on Thursday announced an online registration process for Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders who need assistance to return home when their permits expire on June 30.
David Hamadziripi, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa, said the registration process was voluntary and only targeting those who were unable to finance their travel home.
“The online registration will be open from February 2 until March 3. The invitation is for voluntary registration. We wish to facilitate and assist Zimbabweans who wish to go back home. It is by no means… to compel those who don’t wish to return home voluntarily,” Hamadziripi told a news conference in Pretoria.
Zimbabwe has announced customs duty waivers for the 180,000 ZEP holders on vehicles and household property.
Some 250,000 Zimbabweans fleeing political and economic crises at home were granted four-year work visas in 2009. This was an attempt by South Africa to account for Zimbabweans living in Africa’s most industrialised country illegally.
The visas have been repeatedly renewed, but in November last year, the government announced a final extension until June 30, 2023, opening the potential for mass expulsion of Zimbabwean workers.
Said Hamadziripi: “We call on them (ZEP holders) to be law abiding and respect the laws of South Africa. Zimbabweans migrate because of various reasons.
“To all ZEP holders who might decide to stay here and those who might decide to go elsewhere, we are anticipating that they won’t be able to renew ZEP by the end of June. Some have raised their hands, asking for assistance.
“We are in consultations and discussions with Pretoria. This decision not to renew ZEP is a sovereign decision by South Africa. We can accept it as a matter of their sovereignty. We are finding ways to minimise difficulties that could be encountered in future by ZEP holders. We don’t wish to have our people stranded here at the end of June.”
Hamadziripi added that Zimbabwe respected decisions taken by the South African government.
“We are not involved in decisions taken by South Africa,” he said. “We may have problems, but we are a country. It is their (Zimbabweans’) decision to stay here. It is a subjective decision.
“There are customs regulations that would make those who wish to take home their properties, including cars, pay a certain amount. We will put in waivers for such people. Some may require help to go to their rural homes. Our government is willing to assist.
“When they get to borders, we want to ensure (there is) no congestion.”
He added that Zimbabwe was aware of a pending appeal launched against the termination of the ZEP.
“We can’t wait for the court’s decision. If the court upholds the decision, it’s prudent for us to prepare. If there is an extension, we will adjust our programme accordingly. We want to have the number of school-attending children and their grades as we assist ZEP holders in returning home.
“Those children should be able to complete their studies without disruption. We don’t wish to have their future disrupted in that manner,” Hamadziripi said.