With end of exemption, Zimbabweans living in SA worried about permit process

Government has granted a year's grace period to apply for various permits, but many Zimbabweans are worried about the process, given Home Affairs' dismal track record when it comes to service delivery.

FILE: Department of Home Affairs. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - It's an anxious start to the year for over 200,000 Zimbabweans who now have just under 12 months to apply for permits to stay in South Africa legally.

The exemption permit which many had secured expired last year on 31 December.

Government has granted a year's grace period to apply for various permits, but many Zimbabweans are worried about the process, given Home Affairs' dismal track record when it comes to service delivery.

Officially, there were about a quarter of a million Zimbabweans living here under the special dispensation.

But with allegations of corrupt officials at the border posts and thousands being arrested every year while trying to cross the ineffective Beitbridge fence, it's safe to say that there are far more Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa than those accounted for.

Cabinet said that its decision to stop the renewal of the exemption permit was motivated by the desire to ensure that eligible Zimbabweans could regularise their stay in the country.

Zimbabweans are encouraged to use the 12-month grace period to do so but that may prove to be difficult as Home Affairs has been battling years of backlogs.

Meanwhile, Cabinet has condemned the social media attacks on Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in the wake of the decision to do away with the special exemption.