SADC work visa, Zimbabweans’s new hope after ZSP

SADC work visa, Zimbabweans’s new hope after ZSP

THE  South African Home Affairs department is calling on the public to make comments on the Green Paper on International Migration, to usher in a new policy on International Migration.

The last White Paper,  which was adopted in 1999 and the Department of  Home Affairs, is  right in that, the 1999  it does not speak to African realities in terms of migration to South Africa.

This  article  does not in anyway seek to critic the entire 80 page Green Paper but rather to explain in simple terms what this Green Paper means to n the Zimbabwean community in South Africa and cross border traders.

The Green Paper is right to state that most Zimbabweans  who  apply for asylum are not asylees, that is, they are not running away from  political, religious persecution but in fact economic migrants, though  we do have some who are genuinely seeking asylum , they are a minority.

The economic migrants, upon arriving in South Africa find it difficult to get work permits /visa for them to remain legal in this country and most  are of low skill (domestic workers, construction industry, general workers ) who then apply for an asylum.

The asylum documents allows the holder to work , study and run a business. It should be noted that, South Africa currently does not have accommodation facilities for asylum seekers nor does it have refugee camps.

A  non South African citizen  who seeks  asylum, simply presents him/herself to the Home Affairs Department and make an application.

Now the Green Paper proposes the establishment of  centres near the port of entry for asylum seekers.  Meaning an asylum seeker from Zimbabwe, upon arrival at the Beitbridge border post, will be accommodated in a facility centre in Musina at the South African government’s expense until their application has been processed.

A person who then qualifies will be allowed to proceed to a safer destination within the Republic. Those who don’t qualify will be helped to return to their country of origin.

In 2010, 295 000 Zimbabwe nationals applied for special permits (DZP ), 245 000 permits were issued. In 2014, 208 000 applied online to renew these special permits (ZSP ) with 198 000 submitting their documents in person in various VFS centres across the country.

When the Minister of Home Affairs,  Malusi Gigaba announced the renewal of special permits in 2014, he made it clear that, the ZSP will not be renewed and that  permit holders  will not qualify for a Permanent Residency but could move to a normal permit as provided for under the new immigration law.

So, the recent media announcement by the Minister that ZSP will not be renewed is not a surprise though we would have hoped for a better arrangement.

When the Minister made the announcement in August 2014, that only the holders of the DZP could apply for ZSP, we immediately made proposals as the Zimbabwe Community In South Africa.

Our proposal was based on the fact that, a number of Zimbabweans will remain undocumented. We then proposed that government should consider issuing a SADC Work Visa which will target SADC nationals (including Zimbabweans ) who are already working in South Africa and the Green Paper has captured our proposal.

The Green Paper now proposes the introduction of the SADC Work Visa for low skilled workers (domestic workers , general workers ). This is a positive development and we hope this finds its way to the White Paper.

If it does, ZSP holders,  those working in South Africa using asylum documents and those who are undocumented will qualify for the work visa but will not qualify for Permanent Residence.

Following the adoption of Recommendation 204 by the International Labour Organisation in Geneva in June 2014, which speaks to the formalisation of the informal economy, we have been engaging various stakeholders with regards to cross border traders.

In the last decade, there has been an increase in cross border trading in the region and beyond. The issue that we have been raising in the context of  Zimbabwean Cross Border Traders has been the number of days travellers are given at the port of entry. At times  they are given three days and this on our view, affects  the running of business.

The Green Paper proposes  Cross Border Visa for Cross Border Traders, which is a huge relief to the thousands of workers who are in this sector. Again, we hope this proposal will make it to the White Paper as the public continues to debate the Green Paper.

On our part, we will soon be meeting with the Zimbabwe Cross Border Traders to brief them about this development and receive proposals on how this Cross Border Visa should be structured.

Readers should note that, the conditions of both the SADC Work Visa and the Cross Border Visa will only be discussed once the proposal has been adopted as part of the new South African Immigration policy on International Migration.

Ours is to try and influence society to adopt these proposals and also develop a strategic paper on how these visas should be structured.

Cde Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, is the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Community In South Africa.

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