SA: Zim teachers welcome extension exemption permits, call for waivers

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CAPE TOWN: Zimbabwean teachers in the Western Cape have welcomed Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s decision to extend the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP), but they called for the relaxation of visa requirements and affordable waivers.

Appearing before the Home Affairs committee, Motsoaledi confirmed that he had extended the ZEPs by another six months after being advised by senior counsel.

Motsoaledi recently gazetted a six-month extension from the initial December 2022 termination for the ZEPs.

He said matters relating to the Zimbabwean permits were in court, and for that reason quite a number of matters could not be discussed before MPs, except to say he had extended the deadlines for the ZEP regime to June 2023.

More than 178 000 Zimbabweans are registered under the ZEP dispensation, which is specifically reserved for Zimbabwean professionals.

In December last year, Motsoaledi issued a directive to terminate ZEPs, advising Zimbabweans to apply for alternative, mainstream visas.

“We believed it was time to stop something that we regarded as always being temporary,” he told MPs, referring to his decision to announce the end of the ZEP system.

African Amity and Zimbabwean Permit Holders Association, Zimbabwean Diaspora Association, the Helen Suzman Foundation, Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA and Zimbabwe Immigration Federation are opposing the matter in courts.

Union of Zimbabwe Teachers Western Cape spokesperson Jack Mitsvairo said they were negotiating renewals of employment contracts with employers in September and October, and the extension brought relief to “stressed” Zimbabweans.

He said the alternative visas disqualified teachers with primary school qualifications, and those who taught English, Geography and History.

He said there were a number of ZEP holders who did not meet the requirements and conditions of the mainstream visas.

Mitsvairo said applying for a waiver on other visa regimes could cost up to R6 000, though no waivers had been issued from January this year.

“A lot of us have been working as teachers here for 15 years. We pay taxes and we are not a drain on the fiscus at all,” he said.

“Our appeal to the government is to look at professionals who have employment contracts that are more than five years. These people should get permits of some sort.”