By BRANDON JOSPHAT
HARARE is in a fix over the fate of Zimbabweans living in South Africa whose exemption permits expire at the end of this year and face deportation after authorities there resolved that they would not renew them
The situation has been exacerbated by the fact that the African Amity NPC and Zimbabwe Permit Holders Association which had challenged the South African government’s decision withdrew their case filed before the High Court—dashing all hopes that Zimbabwean citizens could be spared.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, deputy Foreign Affairs minister David Musabayana while the government was concerned about the situation, they did not necessarily blame the South African government for its decision as it was convinced that the economic situation in Zimbabwe had vastly improved to warrant its citizens to return.
“As the government, we continue to engage when necessary but the issue for the Zimbabwean government is to protect and safeguard citizens beyond our borders.
“While the exemption permit was put in place for undocumented Zimbabweans, it was also because they were also looking at Zimbabwe that at one point our economy was not performing.
“There was every justification for Zimbabweans to be employed somewhere so, as a government we will have a difficult situation,” Musabayana said.
He added that the fact that last year Zimbabwe’s economy recorded 7, 8 percent growth meant that South Africans felt justified not to renew the permits as the economic situation had improved.
“This means it’s one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, just two days ago we had the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce annual congress in Victoria Falls where we saw presentations by the World Bank which covered the global and regional perspectives.
When you look at the Southern African region Zimbabwe was standing out above other Southern African countries in terms of economic growth.
“When other countries see that they ask themselves why these people are coming here but their economy is growing. So, the basis of these exempt permits was a sympathy that the Zimbabwean economy was in a meltdown.
“Now that Zimbabwe is on a recovery path and the economy is growing so they cannot renew these permits thus, the challenge we are having. So, as the government, we will continue engaging South Africa to help our people who want to stay in that country”.
Musabayana also said the government would take advantage of existing good diplomatic relations between the two nations to persuade South Africa to renew permits for Zimbabweans with long term contracts with the companies they work for.
“South Africa and Zimbabwe are so close we are separated by the border of rivers hence practically we are of the same people and culture.
“At the same time, it does not mean that South Africa has shut its doors to everyone.
“Now the problem with these exempt permits is that there are some undocumented people who were covered. The challenge was that some people were taking advantage of that including some South Africans and others from the region riding on those permits claiming that they were Zimbabweans.
“When a crime is committed, the blame comes back to Zimbabweans. It creates a big problem when they may not necessarily be Zimbabweans conducting those crimes,” he said.
Musabayana called on Zimbabweans to take advantage of the relative ease with which national documents are currently being accessed in Zimbabwe to sort out the requisite papers for them to stay in South Africa legally.
“Now we no longer have problems that national documents are difficult to acquire. It is easy to get a passport, national ID, and other national documents.
“We are working to decentralise the process of issuing national documents, we are encouraging our citizens to come and register for proper documentation. Then we will assist them in processing permits.
“The challenge with other people is that they want to jump the gun, do not have proper documents, or acquire fake permits.
“For those Zimbabweans that are applying using a proper channel such as the South African embassy and given proper requirements, you will get your permit. We still have people who are getting their permits even though the process is slow,” he said.