Pretoria – Around 10 000 Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa have applied for assistance from their government to return home and resettle as the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) expires at the end of the month.
Fewer than 200 000 Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa on the basis of the ZEP might be forced to leave South Africa if the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, rules in favour of the South African government.
Speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, said about 10 000 had heeded his office’s call for Zimbabweans seeking to relocate by end of June to register and be helped.
“The government (of Zimbabwe) has indicated that it will facilitate the smooth return of those who wish to return home, and we will offer assistance to those who indicate that they would wish to have that assistance,” said Hamadziripi.
“At this point in time, we are actually working on some requests for assistance to go back. We are working with a number between 8 000 and 10 000 at the moment because those are the individuals who have registered their interest to get some type of assistance to go back home,” said the senior diplomat.
In December, IOL reported that ZEP holders had about six months before their documentation to live and work in South Africa expired, and about 180 000 Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa would be affected.
This came after the South African government announced the decision last year that it would terminate the ZEP system by December 31. However, the Department of Home Affairs later announced an extension to June 30, 2023.
In 2020, hundreds of Zimbabweans based in South Africa were helped to return after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left many people unable to work.
In May 2020, at least six bus coaches with trailers left Johannesburg and Pretoria, transporting the Zimbabwean nationals via the Beitbridge border post.
The programme was funded by Pretoria-based business tycoon Justice Maphosa, chief executive and founder of Bigtime Strategic Group, and supported by the UN’s migration agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Every person returning was provided with meals before the trip, and food parcels to help them when they arrived in Zimbabwe.