PRETORIA, September 8 – South Africa Home Affairs Minister Hlengiwe Mkhize on Friday announced terms and conditions of the new four year non-renewable permit regime for close to 200,000 Zimbabweans based in South Africa, under the dispensation termed the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).
“Conditions of the new Zimbabwe Exemption Permit dispensation entitles the holder to work, study and, or, to conduct business, if that person is an entrepreneur. It’s important to emphasise that it [the ZEP] does not entitle the holder the right to apply for permanent residence, irrespective of the period of stay in the Republic of South Africa. It will neither be renewable or extendable,” Mkhize said as she addressed a press briefing in Pretoria.
“The ZEP does not allow the permit holder to change conditions of his or her permit while in South Africa. A permit holder who wishes to convert their status to any other mainstream visa should apply timeously for such a visa from within South Africa, provided they meet all the requirements for that visa. We have quite a number of visa regimes … if, for instance, a person wants to be considered under the category of a student, or as studying, they have to come out of this one, and there are different conditions attached to that one. That would help a lot because there (the study permit) the period is fixed to a degree or diploma.”
Mkhize emphasized that the South Africa government believed that migrants play an important role in respect of the country’s economic development, and enriching social and cultural life.
She said the 197,941 holders of the current Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP), which expires in December, are allowed to travel across borders with expired ZSP permits and receipts showing they have applied for the ZEP, until the South African government has issued them with the ZEP permits.
“This new ZEP will begin on the 15th of September 2017. People have a week now, they have been expecting it and nobody will say it’s a short period. The ZEP is open and valid for ZSP permit holders only … the people who assessed the ZSP in 2014 and they have not been deported for criminal activities and so on, those are the people we are inviting to apply. We advise prospective applicants to submit applications online from September 15, through the VFS website,” said Mkhize.
The applications are made on www.vfsglobal.com/ZEP/SouthAfrica/com.
The minister said the cut-off date for submission of applications is November 30. An administrative fee of R1,090 will be charged. From October, the applicants will be allocated appointments to submit fingerprints and supporting documents physically at VFS Global offices in Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Johannesburg, Rustenburg, Kimberley, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Bloemfontein and George.
“I trust that the ZEP will go a long way in assisting the Zimbabweans to rebuild their lives as they prepare, at work, in business and in educational institutions, for their final return to their sovereign State – Zimbabwe – in the near future,” said Mkhize.
Chargé d’Affaires at the Zimbabwean High Commission in Pretoria, Tamuka Robert Nyamuranga, extended gratitude to the government of South Africa “for the generous offer that they have made to thousands of Zimbabweans”.
“This is an act of solidarity, an act of good neighbourliness. I know there are many Zimbabwean nationals who have been living and working in South Africa, and they have made a meaningful contribution to the development of South Africa and to the implementation of the National Development Plan,” said Nyamuranga.
“I would like to call on fellow Zimbabweans, those who hold the ZSP, to come forward as soon as VFS opens for applications on September 15, and avoid the last minute rush that normally occurs in situations like this. I want to thank the minister once more.”
Under the special dispensation granted by Pretoria in 2014, Zimbabweans who had previously been granted permits under the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project were allowed to re-register for the “non-renewable” three-year ZSP.
South Africa has officially confirmed the dates for the extension of permits for thousands of Zimbabweans working, studying and operating businesses in the neighbouring country.
Applications for the new Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) project will begin next Friday online via the VFS Global website.
The ZEP, which will be valid for four years, is open only for valid Zimbabwe Exemption Project (ZEP) permit holders only.
The cut-off date for submission of applications is November 30.
An admission fee of R1 090 (US$85) will be charged.
Application can be made at VFS offices in Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, George, Johannesburg, Kimberley, Nelspruit, Polokwane, Port Elizabeth and Rustenburg.
The announcement by the South African government allays uncertainty among Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring country.
There has been anxiety ahead of the expiry of current permits on December 31. Some 200 000 Zimbabweans benefitted under the ZSP scheme.