The decision by South Africa not to renew the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP), will affect the livelihoods of many villagers in Matabeleland South, who for years have depended on their relatives working across the Limpopo, a councillor in Gwanda has decried.
Matabeleland South is home to thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa both legal and illegal who fend for their families in a failed local economy.
The special permits – ZEPs – were introduced in 2010 during the coalition government era as the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) with the aim of regularising the stay of locals in that country and with a view to reducing pressure on the asylum management system.
Nearly 180 000 Zimbabweans based in South Africa are beneficiaries of the special permits.
The DZP permits expired in 2014 after which the South African government upgraded them to Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) which lapsed in 2017.
The ZSPs were then followed by the ZEPs which expire on December 31 this year.
On November 25, the South African government announced that it would no longer renew the permits, throwing many into anxiety and apprehension.
However, permit holders have been given a grace period of 12 months to either move to other permits if they qualify or leave that country before being deported.
Speaking to CITE over the weekend in Dadata, Gwanda North, Ward 2 Councillor, Zwelibanzi Mpofu, said the development would affect the livelihoods of many in the area.
“This is a serious challenge for our children outside the country,” decried Mpofu.
She said the non-renewal of permits will negatively impact our community.
“Many families are going to lose a lot,” she lamented.
“Hunger and robbery cases are likely to increase. How are people going to look after those families? We expect the government to intervene in this and help our children outside the country to have their permits renewed so they can continue work.”