New Zimbabwe (London)

Zimbabwe: SA Admits Quandary Over 250,000 Zimbabweans

Photo: Kristy Siegfried/IRIN
Edeline Kupara, from Zimbabwe, queueing outside the Refugee Reception Office in Cape Town (file photo).

ZIMBABWEANS living in South Africa must wait a little longer to know their fate as the neighbouring country agonises on how to assist them while avoiding a "shock to the system" and adverse impact on social and other services.

About 250,000 Zimbabweans issued with the documents four years ago and are now anguished by the continued uncertainty over their stay in South Africa.

Under South African laws, one qualifies for a permanent resident permit which comes with benefits after staying for 5 years in Africa's land of "milk and honey".

This means Zimbabweans who accepted South Africa's concessions to allow all foreign immigrants - illegal and otherwise - to regularise their stay in that country, would require another year of legitimate stay to become South African citizens.

But, aware of the boomerang effect this entails for South Africa, the Jacob Zuma government has gone back to its statutes to explore how it could remedy the impending dilemma.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba admitted last Friday that his government was in a quandary on how to reciprocate the gesture that was shown by the few Zimbabweans who heeded its call to regularise their stay in that country by renewing their permits at the same avoiding the crisis.

Gigaba said an additional 250,000 new South Africans and their offspring would be disaster for South African systems.

"l want to be blunt, 250,000 Zimbabweans are holders of these permits. Once you extend with one year, 250,000 Zimbabweans will apply for permanent resident citizenship and that will be a shock to the system and government," he said.

The Home Affairs director, Apleni Mkuseli also told Zimbabweans to remain calm while his government deliberated over the status of their new permits.

Gigaba also said they were now open to engagement over the newly promulgated immigration rules. This comes after the new rules have raised an uproar which has spilled into that country's courts.

A Western Cape High Court last week ruled in favour of a South Africa woman Cherene Delorie who had sought its intervention after her Zimbabwean husband was thrown out of South Africa after being declared an undesirable resident.

The courts ordered the Home Affairs Ministry to allow the husband back into South Africa.

Gigaba said: "Our doors are not closed. We are open to further engagement on the consequences. You can never introduce new regulations that are perfect and will work. We are open for discussion and ready to address concerns that people might have or raise."

The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Southern Africa Tourism Services Associations (SATSA) World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA), European Travel Agents, Tour Operators' Associations (ECIAA) and the Board of Airline Representatives of Southern Africa (BARSA) have all complained about the new laws.

The new Act which came into effect on May 26, 2014 also threatens to affect the South African Tourism sector, so they say.

Despite confirmation to that effect, Gigaba is yet to meet officially with Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi over the status of Zimbabwean nationals living in the country's rich southern neighbour.

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