Politics

Zimbabweans stuck in limbo in South Africa


There are practically 200 000 Zimbabweans in South Africa who’re dwelling on borrowed time.

They are within the nation on a particular visa, the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP). This visa class was launched greater than a decade in the past to accommodate an inflow of refugees who have been fleeing political persecution and financial devastation in Zimbabwe.

But late final 12 months, South Africa’s house affairs division, amid rising Afrophobic sentiment amongst South African residents, introduced that it might not renew the ZEPs. This resolution offers affected Zimbabweans a “grace period” till the top of this 12 months to go away the nation or danger being deported — until they’ll discover one other visa to use for.

Among their quantity is Thenjiwe Mhlanga*, who has been in South Africa since 2010. She is married to a Zimbabwean man who’s a everlasting residence holder, and so they have kids collectively. 

As issues stand, she must go away the nation by 31 December this 12 months, and go away her household behind — in addition to all of the unemployment advantages that she at the moment receives. She is hoping to use for a spousal allow by way of her husband’s everlasting residency. Although she qualifies, she is not sure whether or not her utility will succeed, given the inefficiency and corruption that’s endemic to South Africa’s visa utility course of.

Rufaro Gwatidzo*, a distance learner who has lived in South Africa since he was six, doesn’t qualify below some other visa classes. He believes himself to be South African and can’t think about a life for himself in Zimbabwe.

Although confused about his future away from all he has ever recognized, Gwatidzo stated: “I’m not oblivious of the fact that when in Rome one must do as the Romans. And if they don’t want you, it’s not fair to impose on them because of your own personal needs and wants.”

Courtroom battle looms

There is one establishment which will but overturn the federal government’s resolution to not renew the ZEP: South Africa’s courts. A authorized problem is being ready by the Zimbabwean Exemption Holders Association, on the grounds that the choice was “irrational”.

Leading this problem is advocate Simba Chitando. His detractors describe him as a maverick of Johnny Cochrane proportions — not essentially a praise within the authorized career. Chitando is assured that the courts will overturn the federal government’s resolution to let the ZEPs lapse.

“The minister of home affairs believes cancelling 180 000 ZEP holders from the job market would solve unemployment in the country and increase jobs for South African citizens. The truth is it will do the opposite,” Chitando stated. 

“I would advise Zimbabweans, ZEP holders, and sympathetic South African nationals, to be calm in the face of this crisis and allow the court process to run its course. There are many who are lobbying the government to change their obviously bad decision.”

Not everyone seems to be satisfied {that a} authorized problem will work — particularly whether it is led by Chitando, who has shut hyperlinks with Zimbabwe’s ruling celebration, Zanu-PF. His uncle, Winston Chitando, is Zimbabwe’s minister of mines and Chitando is the pinnacle of Zanu-PF’s Sandton department in Johannesburg.

For the various Zimbabweans who fled political persecution, that is an unwelcome connection. In a WhatsApp group organised by Zimbabweans to maintain abreast of the ZEP courtroom issues, one individual stated: “Tirimuno muSouth Africa pamusaka pavo [we are here because of them (Zanu-PF)]. Can we trust that they’ll even do a decent job?”

Others concern that Chitando’s Zanu-PF hyperlinks will make the case political, and agitate the South African authorities, which is able to in flip “punish” Zimbabweans with much more stringent visa guidelines it doesn’t matter what the courts say.

A courtroom date has not been set but.

Uncertain futures

While ZEP holders await the authorized course of to take its course, many are already coping with the fallout from the choice. Some banks, though conscious of the grace interval, are refusing to switch misplaced financial institution playing cards or open accounts and a few visitors departments won’t renew the driving licences of ZEP holders.

Those who wish to apply for an additional visa must navigate South Africa’s corrupt utility course of. A 2016 report by the Corruption Watch watchdog organisation described a “cartel-like” community of officers, runners and facilitators who prey on these searching for help.

Ironically, for some ZEP holders, this corruption could also be their solely hope of staying within the nation legally. “If kana zvanetsa, and things become difficult, I will just ‘lose’ my passport and start again. I just want to take care of my family. It’s like they want to push you into doing criminal acts to survive,” stated one ZEP holder, who requested to have his title withheld.

South Africa’s Home Affairs Department didn’t reply to repeated requests for remark for this story.  

This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper produced in partnership with the Mail & Guardian. It’s designed to be learn and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy right here.

The views expressed are these of the writer and don’t mirror the official coverage or place of the Mail & Guardian.





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