The session was dedicated to unpacking the difficult and divisive topic of the Zimbabwean ZEP special dispensation.
The latest hereon is the announced extension period to allow ZEP holders to make new applications for a further 6 months until 30 June 2023.
Dr Motsoaledi provided excellent and well-articulated insight into government’s strategy hereon, showing a deeper appreciation for the history and law on the subject matter.
The original purpose of the ZEP was to provide a humanitarian solution to the increasing number of migrants from Zimbabwe at the time seeking refuge and opportunity in South Africa. The Minister dealt clearly with the incorrect expectation that it would continue to be extended and he reiterated that it was always a temporary fix. He added that the ZEP permits were very limiting in that they did not allow holders to progress to other visa categories, which is now being addressed by his invitation for Zimbabweans to follow due process and make correct applications during the grace period.
The grace period granted allows ZEP holders exactly this opportunity, but concern was expressed that not enough are taking the opportunity to take this step. Which begged the question, what is the resistance?
Marisa Jacobs, explained the various visa options available in terms of the Immigration Act that ZEP holders could explore, this included Spousal Visa, Relative Visa, Study Visa, Critical Skills Work Visa, General Work Visa, Business Visa, Retired Person Visa and after applying for a main stream category, eventually a Permanent Residence Permit can be secured. She added that it is essential for ZEP holders to apply for their application as soon as possible heading the call by the Minister. They offer a dedicated portal and team to deal with the ZEP holders who seek a compliant and long-term solution through ZEP@Xpatweb.com.
The Minister also provided some insights into the number of Zimbabwe nationals living in South Africa. For the 2021 year confirming that Zimbabweans were issued with 38% of all Critical Skills Work Visas, 25% of all Study Visas 15% of General Work Visas and 14% of all Relative Visas. This confirms that many foreign nationals in South Africa are from Zimbabwe and continue to contribute meaningfully to the South African economy. ZEP holders are being afforded the same opportunity to apply for one of these visa categories.
The Minister and Marisa Jacobs both encourage ZEP holders to confirm the category best suited for their personal circumstances and urgently progress to apply for a visa.