SA permit for Zimbabweans in two months?

JOHANNESBURG - The South African government could start issuing the special dispensation permit, mooted in May last year, to Zimbabweans living and working in that country within the next two months, a source in Pretoria said this week.

During its waiver of the then stringent visa requirements, meant to curb the proliferation of fraudulently acquired SA identity documents and also to cut the upsurge in asylum permit applications, Pretoria said it would issue the renewable permit valid for six months to Zimbabweans already in the country.

It also stopped deporting Zimbabweans already in the country, who had fled the decade-long economic rot and political mayhem blamed on President Robert Mugabes corrupt dictatorship.

The permit is yet to be seen or issued, but a Home Affairs official told The Zimbabwean that the ministry had promised to issue it before the end of October.

This is what has been said following the marathon meetings between Home Affairs and Immigration officials and Zimbabwean politicians from the MDC, said the source.

The dates have not yet been formalised, but plans are at an advanced stage to roll out the permit, whose modalities have been finalised and are set to be officially announced to the public.

The official said that the ministry was still negotiating the permit with their Zimbabwean counterparts, as they wanted guarantees that after the permit has been issued, Harare should immediately document its citizens already in South Africa to root out those illegally holding South African documents.

When the final announcement is made, the two governments will be united in that and working together to end the issue of document fraud, which is still going on, added the official.

Ngqabutho Dube, the South African secretary for the smaller MDC formation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, said to have been there when the announcement was made in a meeting last week, would neither confirm nor deny the progress, saying only that there were a lot of positives discussed so far.

It will be premature for me to divulge what was said in the meeting we had last weekend, but there are a lot of positives, said Dube.

We know that when negotiating, there should be a compromise reached and we are very happy so far.

Dubes party is seeking a blanket amnesty for all Zimbabweans caught and admitting to using fraudulently-acquired South African documents, saying that the affected people will willingly surrender the documents if granted such amnesty.

Now the MDC-M is seeking a permit that will allow Zimbabweans already working in South Africa to break free from the current situation where they are permits valid for only three months. The regulations require them to leave the country and stay at home for seven the days before they can return creating enormous hassles for those in employment.

The MDC wants such people to be given special permits and the 90 days to apply to informal traders and general travellers.

South Africas Home Affairs spokesperson, Ronnie Mamoepa, had not yet responded to questions emailed to him at the time of going to press.

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