Early this month Africas biggest economy lifted visa requirements on Zimbabweans wishing to travel to their southern neighbour for a period not exceeding three months and now wants all undocumented Zimbabweans already in the country to secure the exemption certificate.
South Africa authorities will be shortly issuing temporary residence permits or special dispensation permits to all Zimbabweans who do not have a legal status in the country, a circular released on Wednesday by the Zimbabwean Consulate in Johannesburg said.
Valid travel document
But one is required to have a valid travel document, either a passport or Emergency Travel Document (ETD) that serves as a Zimbabwean identity document. These documents are only available at the consulate. The consulate is therefore calling upon all Zimbabwean nationals without a valid travel document to apply immediately for Emergency Travel Document.
The exemption certificate is for both undocumented Zimbabweans living in South Africa illegally and those who have applied for asylum but may not qualify as they are economic migrants rather than refugees, South Africas Home Affairs department told the media.
Over the past years, many Zimbabweans have sought economic and political refuge in South Africa, fleeing from the country’s crisis.
Home Affairs said that 8 000 Zimbabweans were applying daily for asylum and it expected the new measures to reduce the number of people seeking asylum, and allow those who came to South Africa for work to do so more easily.
The departments spokesperson Siobhan McCarthy said offices for the exemption certificate applicants would be set up in Musina, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth, while a facility for Johannesburg could be set up in the Lindela repatriation centre to enable undocumented migrants to apply for the permit if they are arrested.
The exemption certificate which will be available to Zimbabweans only will be valid for a year and will allow Zimbabweans to move freely across the border and work legally within South Africa without having to apply for a work permit.
Applying for permit
According to McCarthy Zimbabweans can apply for this permit on arrival at the border and must tell the border officials whether or not they intend to seek work.
If they do, the officials grant a permit for 90 days which is renewable in South Africa once for another 90 days. After this the Zimbabwean must leave South Africa and reapply for another permit.
Many Zimbabweans who were in SA illegally could not afford the visas, while the costs and difficulties of getting the old visas also resulted in corruption among officials. Most people want to come into the country legally, but once people enter the country illegally, it’s then difficult for them to leave,” she said.
The system will be reviewed in a year.
At least three million Zimbabweans are said to be living outside the country, the majority of them in South Africa, having fled political repression and poverty after a decade-long economic crisis blamed on President Robert Mugabes controversial policies.
A unity government formed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Mugabe in February is yet to convince rich Western nations that the southern African country is firmly on the path to genuine reform for them give it much needed financial support to resuscitate its shattered economy. ZimOnline