Video footage that has gone viral on the internet shows Zimbabweans being chased from vending stalls while others are riding roofs trying to run away from the marauding South African mob which is being accompanied by police officers and Home Affairs officials.
On New Year’s eve, South Africa effectively ended a decade-long moratorium that allowed about 200 000 Zimbabweans to live and work in the country through issuing the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) that was renewable every four years.
The decision, although decent, according to some critics, since it gave Zimbabweans a 12-month grace period that ends in December this year for them to apply for different kinds of visas to stay or face deportation, had faced resistance.
A court challenge launched by Simba Chitando, a Zimbabwean lawyer based in South Africa, was at the centre of what the embassy saw as a hostile approach.
Watch the video below:
The Zimbabwean Embassy in Pretoria said it accepted South Africa’s “sovereign decision”. But diplomatic sources told News24 that South Africa’s hard-line stance was inevitable after Zanu PF told an ANC special envoy delegation led by Ace Magashule to Harare in September 2020 to stop meddling in Zimbabwean affairs.
But South Africa’s concern with the political and socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe was hinged on the fact that, as the biggest economy in the region, illegal immigrants from Zimbabwe would strain the country’s economy and social services.
Chairman of the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, in an interview with News24, said all that needed to be done was to follow South Africa’s Cabinet’s directive and then iron out other issues that may arise from people failing to get other kinds of permits.
“What’s needed is to first establish how many qualify to move to other visas as directed by the SA Cabinet. Secondly, we need to engage Home Affairs (SA) representing those not able to move to other visas, especially the lowly skilled and understand what kind of assistance can be granted.”
Mabhena added that they held the view that the majority of the ZEP holders did not qualify to move to other visas.
For example, domestic workers, people working in the construction industry, and at shops.
“When it comes to teachers, lawyers and accountants whose professions are not listed as critical skills we need the government to consider providing a waiver for such individuals. For example, if a teacher’s services are still required by their employer, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Labour can grant a waiver for such a person to apply for a general working visa,” he said