Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South Africa yesterday introduced a new three-year permit for Zimbabweans wishing to study or work in that country, ending months of speculation following reports that the country was introducing tough measures for immigrants.
SA’s Home Affairs Minister Mr Malusi Gigaba told journalists in Pretoria that the Zimbabwe Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) will allow permit-holders to live, work, conduct business and study in South Africa for the duration of the permit, which is valid until December 31, 2017.
He said the ZSP was a temporary bridge to the near future when all Zimbabweans will re-enter the mainstream immigration process.
Mr Gigaba said applications will open on October 1 and close on December 31 this year.
The Visa Facilitation Services (VFS) would manage the process which would be adjudicated by the Department of Home Affairs.
Mr Gigaba said the programme was a replacement of the Zimbabwe Dispensation Programme which started in May 2009 and would expire on December 31.
During the DZP, at least 295 000 Zimbabweans applied for the permit and about 245 000 permits were issued, with the balance being denied due to lack of passports or non-fulfilment of other requirements.
Mr Gigaba said the South African Cabinet approved the new permit last Wednesday following his engagement with his Zimbabwean counterpart Cde Kembo Mohadi.
“The approaching expiry date has caused anxiety for many permit-holders, particularly those who are not ready to return to Zimbabwe, as they contemplate their next steps,” he said.
“While we note the ongoing political and economic recovery in Zimbabwe, consistently supported by the South African government, we are aware that it will take time for her to fully stabilise.
“Accordingly, I announce today, the closure of the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project, as of 31 December, 2014. Furthermore, I hereby announce the creation of the new Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit of 2014, or to use the acronym, the ZSP.”
Mr Gigaba said DZP permit-holders who wished to remain in South Africa after the expiry of their permits, could reapply for the ZSP, subject to conditions which include a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, business or accredited study and a clear criminal record.