Zim Minister says Harare ready to welcome its citizens as permits expire in SA; nearly 200,000 affected

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PRETORIA: Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Frederick Shava, said the government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is ready to welcome back its citizens who have lived in South Africa under the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP).

“The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit will expire at the end of this year. Its expiry is naturally causing much anxiety to the holders of this permit,” Shava said in his opening remarks while co-chairing the mid-term review of the Bi-National Commission (BNC) with International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor.

“Our two governments must work closely in the implementation of this decision. We are ready to receive our nationals back home,” he said.

Among several senior officials from the two nations, the high-level meeting was also attended by Ambassador of South Africa to Zimbabwe, Thizwilondi Rejoice Mabudafhasi, and Ambassador of Zimbabwe to South Africa, David Hamadziripi.

Numerous Zimbabweans living in South Africa are in limbo, after the South African government announced that it would not be extending the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP), which ended on December 31, 2021.

The almost 200 000 permit-holders were given a 12-months grace period to regularise their stay with another category of permit.

Pandor told Shava that Pretoria is grateful for the supportive role played by Zimbabwe in arresting the scourge of illegal migration.

“Dear Minister (Shava), I’m sure you are aware that effective management of immigration has been an ongoing challenge for our government.

“We’ve recently established a border management agency and we hope it will vastly reduce illegal migration and improve efficiency. I must thank you and your government for the support you have given us in this endeavour,” she said.

Pandor said the review meeting gives the two neighbouring countries an opportunity to “reboot and reset our programmes, to better respond to the challenges that have emanated” from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I am pleased to recall that despite the constraints of the pandemic, total trade between South Africa increased from a quantum of R38billion in 2020 to R47.5bn in 2021. I trust that our delegations will align our planning to enhance this positive development and I note in the figures that the surplus lies with South Africa, and we would like to see greater benefit to Zimbabwe’s economic sectors as well.

“Of course, our cooperation and partnership is not only limited to bilateral relations. We also share common values on regional, continental and global governance issues of mutual interest,” she said.

Pandor also expressed gratitude to Zimbabwe for the support given to South Africa when it served on the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation.

Shava, a seasoned diplomat, was appointed by Mnangagwa to head the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year, following the death of the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo.