At least 8 000 migrants who registered to return home ahead of the expiry of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) in South Africa on June 30, are expected any time soon, with the Government confirming all logistics for a smooth process were in place.
This is the first batch of ZEP holders registered for assistance during the mapping exercise conducted from February until early March this year.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Deputy Minister David Musabayana said all modalities for easy movement and reception of the returning citizens were now in place.
“Government stands ready to receive the ZEP permit holders and all is now in order and we should be expecting them anytime soon. For further assistance, we urge people to approach the Zimbabwe Embassy in Pretoria and the two consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town.”
Deputy Minister Musabayana said a committee comprising officials from several ministries was coordinating logistics for the seamless movement of people from South Africa, looking at the whole gamut of their needs.
“The inter-ministerial committee has covered a lot of ground so far, identifying areas of assistance for the returnees. Government will also provide buses for those needing transportation,” he said.
Responding to written questions from this publication, Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Mr Livit Mugejo said the 8 000 returnees in the first batch were registered in different parts of South Africa.
“During the mapping exercise, we managed to register more than 8 000 people out of the expected 178 000.
“However, the figure 178 000 comprises Zimbabweans of different standing working across different sectors of the South African economy. While the ZEP provided an umbrella immigration cover for our people, the six months’ extension was also meant to afford the affected citizens ample time to migrate to other available visas,” he said.
Through Zimbabwean consulates in South Africa, Government was assisting citizens in accessing vital documents like birth certificates, national identity cards and passports.
Other forms of assistance that will be provided to the returnees include customs clearance, reintegration of children into schools, social and psychological support.
Mr Mugejo said: “Government will offer concessions to returning residents in the form of specific immigrants’ rebate, facilitation of a smooth passage for our nationals and providing adequate assistance at our ports of entry and exit, mainly at Beitbridge Border Post.
“(We are) Offering psycho-social support to returnees at ports of entry and exit and upon reaching their final destination,” Mr Mugejo said.
In line with the Second Republic’s thrust of leaving no one behind, Government will provide transport, Mr Mugejo said.
“No one is going to be left stranded. Government will ensure that those without transport are not stranded by providing buses, and transport from the ports of entry to various destinations across the country.
“We are also providing reintegration packages into the communities, including settling them in desired areas of work specialisation and any other necessary social integration needs, including community integration programmes.
“Through our embassy in Pretoria and two consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Government has been issuing birth certificates, assisting with passport applications,” he said.
Government has partnered with the International Organisation of Migration for technical support in the anticipated mass movement of Zimbabweans from SA.
Under the mapping exercise, which started on February 13, the Zimbabwean embassy in the neighbouring country advised ZEP holders who wanted to be assisted to return home to register online.
The first phase ended in early March, paving the way for the embassy to initiate phase two of the mapping exercise that commenced on March 13 and ended on March 31, with enhanced support for the returnees.
Since 2009, at least 178 000 Zimbabweans have been living in South Africa under the ZEP.
These permits were given to Zimbabweans with skills that were crucial for the development of that country. However, SA now believes it has enough of its own citizens with the required skills.
The SA government initially gave ZEP holders up to December 31, 2022 to apply for alternative visas, and later extended the permits’ validity to June 30, 2023.
The alternatives include student, business, spousal and work permit visas. These are the normal visas foreigners working in that country need.