President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe said the expiry of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) in South Africa was a blessing in disguise for those returning home because they “have opportunities to contribute here at home”.
The ZEP will expire on 30 June after a December 2022 extension, but advocate Simba Chitando has launched a court challenge against the South African home affairs department to consider the rights of children born in South Africa to immigrants.
The matter will be heard in April.
In 2009, the South African government introduced what was then known as the Dispensation of Zimbabwe Permit (DZP) for Zimbabweans who wanted to live and work in South Africa.
About 245 000 Zimbabweans were granted DZPs, which ran for four years until it was renamed the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP). In 2017, it was renamed the ZEP, which has about 180 000 holders.
In his weekly column run by the state media in Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa said those returning home would not struggle to be integrated.
With a strong educational foundation and largely highly skilled in different trades and disciplines, our nationals have been active across a wide spectrum of the South African economy. They will not be hard-pressed for options.
He said the government would assist them “as they prepare to resume a productive life” in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa said he was sending a team to South Africa for a mapping exercise so that there would be no logistical challenges come June.
Part of the team’s job would be to ensure that pupils in South African schools were not prejudiced by the relocation exercise.
Many Zimbabweans are, however, sceptical about returning home because of the volatile economy.
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), Zimbabwe had the highest food inflation in the world in 2022 at 285%.
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A large part of the working population in Zimbabwe is in the informal sector or low-paying jobs. Government employees earn below the poverty datum line, and the average Zimbabwean survives on R30 per day, according to World Bank figures.
The country is due to hold general elections any time from August, and some believe the government’s “open hands” approach is a campaign tool.
“He (Mnangagwa) is telling us to come back home and the government will assist us, but this is political rhetoric ahead of elections. I have my reservations because already the government is faltering on basic things like the health sector. What more when there’s a strain from us,” said Sidney Ncube, who works at a restaurant in Sandton, Gauteng.
So far, there are no recorded returnees ahead of the 30 June deadline.
Source: News 24