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Zimbabwe ups stakes to assist SA returnees

by Staff reporter
19 Feb 2023 at 17:34hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE has started to deploy high-level teams comprising Government officials, diplomats and consulate staff to all nine provinces in South Africa to register Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders keen on returning home ahead of the scheduled expiry of the documents.

This comes as Government has elevated the scheduled return of its citizens from the neighbouring country to national level status, after a Cabinet committee was formed to facilitate initiatives that smoothen all processes for the returnees.

Last year, the South African government announced the termination of ZEPs, directing holders to apply for visas if they intended to stay in the country.

As of last month, only 6 000 out of the 178 000 ZEP holders in South Africa had successfully applied for the alternative visas to legally stay in the neighbouring country.

The ZEPs are set to expire this June.

A few weeks ago, the Zimba-bwean embassy commenced online registration for those interested in returning home.

In an interview, Zimbabwe's Ambassador to South Africa, Mr David Hamadziripi, told The Sunday Mail that preparations for the teams' deployment were at an advanced stage.

"In addition to the online registration, we are also going to have a mapping exercise in which teams composed of embassy and consulate staff and officers from various Government departments will travel to all the nine provinces of South Africa to register those ZEP holders interested in returning home with Government assistance. We anticipate to have the teams on the ground by the end of the month," he said.

Ambassador Hamadziripi commended the Government of Zimbabwe for taking a clear position that it would assist all those intending to come back home.

"Pursuant to the announcement of the South African government's decision on the termination of the ZEP, our Government announced its readiness to welcome the affected nationals back home.

"It also announced its willingness to assist in the return of those who chose to return home. In fact, we started getting increased enquiries from some ZEP holders on how they could be assisted in returning home following those announcements," he said.

Ambassador Hamadziripi said there are some Zimbabweans who remain hopeful of being permitted to stay in the neighbouring country as they anticipate a reprieve from an ongoing court challenge.

The court ruling is expected in April after the Helen Suzman Foundation, together with the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association (ZEPHA), sought a review of the legality of the decision made by South Africa's Home Affairs Department to terminate the permits.

The foundation and ZEPHA want the South African High Court to declare the decision as unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

"There are a number of factors that are influencing the ZEP holders. A major factor is that many are hoping that they will get a favourable verdict from the court in April in the cases that have been brought against the Department of Home Affairs by the ZEPHA and Helen Suzman Foundation. On our part, we need to plan according to the position of the SA government, so that is why we are working ahead of time," the Ambassador said.

Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Mr Livit Mugejo said Government has upped the stakes to repatriate its citizens.

"This issue has been elevated to national level. There is an inter-ministerial committee constituted by Cabinet to look into this. What we have done as the ministry is we have put in place the plan that entails pre-arrival, arrival and post-arrival assistance and evaluation," he said.

Government, said Mr Mugejo, had also carried out an inspection and evaluation of the country's ports of entry to assess their state of preparedness.

"We have also gone to borders to assess how ready they are and now we want to go to South Africa to find out more in terms of numbers and assistance required."

Source - The Sunday Mail
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