Zimbabweans in South Africa urged to patiently wait for permits as DA urges tightening of borders

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By Khanyile Mlotshwa

ZIMBABWEANS living in South Africa who are part of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) programme have been urged to remain calm and patient as they wait for the renewal of their permits.

The ZEP is a programme by South Africa’s home affairs department that allows Zimbabweans to live and work legally in the continent’s second biggest economy.

It is in its third term after it was introduced in 2012 to regularise a number of Zimbabweans who lived in the country without legal papers.

Chairman of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa (ZCSA), Ngqabutho Mabhena, in a short statement said the department had indicated that it was seized with the renewal of the permits that expired in December last year.

“According to the ZEP Manager at Home Affairs Head Office in Pretoria, the department is busy processing ZEP applications,” he said.

“They expect the last batch of permits to be out by October 2018. Meanwhile, ZEP applicants are required to produce the receipt and the Advisory letter issued by the department when ever necessary.”

However some of the Zimbabweans, who are part of the programme, said they met a lot of hardships including the fact that many institutions are refusing to help people with the receipts and not passports.

Some banks have reportedly announced that they will freeze accounts of people with receipts and no passports at the end of this month.

Meanwhile a member of Parliament, Haniff Hoosen, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, has urged the government to strengthen borders to lock out illegal immigrants from coming into the country.

Contributing to the debate on accreditation of foreign trained doctors, Hoosen said South Africa is a master “at attracting unskilled immigrants.”

“We have a border with no fence that anyone can just walk across,” he said.

“An unknown number of mostly unskilled and undocumented immigrants are entering the country and are employed in labour intensive industries across the country.

“The employment of illegal and undocumented immigrants has a direct impact on our job creation abilities as a country and this is an area of focus that must be addressed. Far too many companies employ undocumented immigrants and simply pay a fine when they get caught. This is a clearly an insufficient response to a massive challenge.”

At a time when most people, including leading academics like Achille Mbembe, are calling for the abolition of borders in Africa, Hoosen said the department of home affairs needed to tighten the borders.

“We must secure our borders and fix our fence, making it almost impossible for people to enter the country illegally,” he said.

“We must make it as easy as possible for those who wish to enter legally, with an emphasis on skilled workers. We must also take stronger sanctions for people who employ immigrants illegally.”