THIS week we are going to digress a bit, from our sequel, which was outlining step by step,how the ZSP came into being, following the high number of enquiries I have been receiving in past few weeks following the widely circulated whatsApp message that is said to have been authored by Zimbabwean SA based activist Edward Muchatuta.
The message, among others calls on ZSP holders to submit their details if they want to apply for permanent residency when the Permits expire on 31 December 2017. The message also says Muchatuta and his team have already consulted a lawyer to help.
Now I have worked with Muchatuta and l do not believe he is trying to scam anyone but is rather, an individual who wants to help but lost on the procedure.
The challenge in my view is that, once we begin with legal threats, the government will not entertain any submission by civil society organisations, which will be appealing to it to change the conditions as stated in the permits. The government will simply wait for a legal outcome, which might go beyond 31 December 2017 putting the more than 198 000 Zimbabweans in limbo, as they would be considered illegal immigrants and candidates for deportation once the permits expire.
Note the conditions of the Zimbabwe Special Permit are as follows;
- ZSP permit entitles the holder to conduct work / employment.
- The ZSP permit does not entitle the holder the right to apply for permanent residence irrespective of the period of stay in the RSA.
- The ZSP permits will not be renewable/ extendable.
- ZSP permit holder cannot change conditions of his /her permit in South Africa.
These conditions were explained to us by the South African Minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba in August 2014 in the Ministry offices in Pretoria.
Readers will recall that, the Documentation Zimbabwe Project (DZP) permits which were issued in 2010, were to expire in 2014 and 2015 depending on when one had received the DZP permit. In March 2014, the then Minister of Home Affairs Hon Naledi Pandor had announced that, all DZP permit holders would be required to apply for the renewal of their permits through the South African embassy in Harare. This would have meant that, the over 245 000 Zimbabweans who were issued with DZP permits would have had to go back home, causing even job losses as the process itself takes time.
When the then Minister made the announcement in March 2014, l was based in Zimbabwe following my deployment in July 2011 by my party MDC to help with election campaign and the implementation of the Global Political Agreement.
I then came back to South Africa in May 2014 to help in negotiations to make sure that the permits were going to renewed. And this mean’t having to work with the Zimbabwean government as was the case in 2010.
Readers will recall that, in 2010, we liaised with with the then Zimbabweans co- Ministers of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makoni .
When the then Minister of Home Affairs Dr Nkosazana Dlamini – Zuma announced the granting of special permits to Zimbabweans, she had consulted the Zimbabwean co- Ministers of Home Affairs.
In 2014 when Gigaba announced the second renewal he had consulted with Mohadi.
Recently, when South Africa issued special permits to the people of Lesotho, the government of Lesotho was consulted.
So if the ZSP permit is to be renewed, the Zimbabwean government will have to be consulted. Meaning whoever wants to be involved in the renewal process this time round, will have to work with the Zimbabwean government as some of us did in 2010 and 2014.
In 2014, we made presentations to Mohadi and l found him easy to work with.
Mohadi understood our plight as Zimbabweans, because, most people from his constituency (Beitbridge) have worked in South Africa over the years.
The legal threats by Muchatuta and his team might actually reverse the good relationship that has been built by Zimbabwean organisations with the government of South Africa through the Department of Home Affairs.
In both 2010 and 2014, we had made contacts with the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in Cape Town. In 2010, we were able to present our case in person to the Portfolio Committee and it was supportive of our initiative.
In 2014, l had a telephonic discussion with the Chairperson of the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee. The Chairperson had indicated to us that, the special permits were not issued under an Act of parliament but rather through a cabinet regulation. Parliament was then unable to assist with the renewal of DZP, only cabinet through the Minister of Home Affairs could renew the permits and this was done in August 2014 when Gigaba announced that, all DZP permits were to expire on 31 December 2014, and the DZP permit was to be closed and replaced with a ZSP under the conditions explained above.
It is my well considered view, that if a proper presentation is made to the South Africans without any legal threats, the ANC, as a caring and an internationalist organisation will consider changing the conditions of ZSP. M
Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena is the Chairman of Zimbabwe Community In South Africa. He can be contacted on email@example.com Or via Whatsapp +27 83 340 1000
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