Thousands of Zimbabweans face an uncertain future in South Africa as the country’s government has not yet indicated whether it will renew the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP).
About 180 000 Zimbabweans hold ZEPs. The four-year permit expires on 31 December 2021.
Some of the affected people said their banks had already warned them to renew their permits or face closure of their accounts in December.
The permits were first issued in 2010 under the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (ZDP).
The programme was renewed in 2014 as the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) before the ZEP was introduced in 2017.
A Zimbabwean, who we will only identify as Matthew, told GroundUp that he cannot make plans for the future with the issue unresolved.
Matthew is a supervisor at a restaurant and lives in New Brighton with his wife and two children and has been living in South Africa for 20 years. He said:
I started with an asylum seeker permit before I got the ZDP, ZSP and the ZEP. I have lived in this country for the better part of my adult life. It will be heartbreaking if the government refuses to renew the permits.
I have two bank accounts and insurance as well as burial policies. These will all go down the drain if the government refuses to extend the permits.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Migrants Support Network Chris Mapingure appealed to South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs to issue a statement regarding the renewal of the ZEP.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum Advocate Gabriel Shumba said he is receiving an unprecedented number of enquiries from concerned permit holders.