Pretoria - The cabinet has resolved that migrant Zimbabwean nationals living in the country be given another opportunity to apply for work permits to extend their stay.
"Cabinet approved that the Department of Home Affairs can reopen the re-application process for the current Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) holders, under certain conditions," Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said at a briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.
"The initial special dispensation for Zimbabweans was approved in April 2009 to document Zimbabwean nationals who were in South Africa illegally. Their permits expire on December 31, 2017. The Minister of Home Affairs, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize will hold a separate briefing to explain the conditions and the process to be followed once the re-application opens."
In January, then Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said he was "applying his mind" on the fate of around 200 000 Zimbabweans residing and working in South Africa on the basis of the ZSP.
He however cautioned that a continuation of the renewal of the temporary residence "establishes a precedence of permanence".
"People can take us to court and say they have been in South Africa on this special permit for many years and they now deserve permanent residence. To offer 190 000 people [ZSP holders] at one go would be unprecedented. It's unheard of. It's drastic," said Gigaba at the time.
Gigaba has since been moved to the department of finance following a Cabinet reshuffle in March.
Under the special dispensation granted by Pretoria in 2014, Zimbabweans who had previously been granted permits under the Dispensation for Zimbabweans Project were allowed to re-register for the three-year ZSP.