An initial Zimbabwean special dispensation started in 2009 and provided for the documentation of qualifying Zimbabweans for a five-year period. In 2014, the dispensation was extended by three years and named the Zimbabwean Special Permit. The current Zimbabwean Exemption Permit ZEP was initiated in 2017 and comes to an end on 31 December 2021. The series of special permits made it easier for Zimbabwean nationals to legalise their stay in South Africa by cutting red tape and dispensing with most of the ordinary visa requirements.
Cabinet has decided not to extend the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit [ZEP] special dispensation beyond 31 December 2021 but has agreed to a 12 months grace period. “During this period, the holders of this permit should apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation. At the expiry of this 12-month grace period, on 31st December 2022, those who are not successful will have to leave South Africa or be deported”. Options in terms of the Immigration Act include a Corporate Business Permit, General Work Permit, Critical Skills Permit, or a Spousal Visa amongst others.
As such, all Zimbabwean Exemption Permits will terminate on the 31st December 2021 but the holders will then have an additional 12 months to decide how best to move forward – return to Zimbabwe or make application to Home Affairs for a visa/permit that best suits their personal situation/needs.
The official Government communication regarding the withdrawal of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit dispensation is provided in the Cabinet minutes (see below). However main stream media is reporting today that in order for Zimbabwean Permit holders to be able to seek further permits/visas – they have to book an appointment in advance and pay R3000 for the new permit application fee. This however has not been clarified on Home Affairs website.
Cabinet Minutes – Immigration Act of 2002
Section 31(2)(b) of the Immigration Act of 2002 allows the Minister of Home Affairs “to grant, under specific terms and conditions, a foreigner or a category of foreigners the rights of permanent residence for a specified or unspecified period when special circumstances exist which should justify such a decision.”
The provision reads as follows –
(2) Upon application, the Minister may under terms and conditions determined by him or her-
(b) grant a foreigner or a category of foreigners the rights of permanent residence for a specified or unspecified period when special circumstances exist which would justify such a decision:
Provided that the Minister may-
(i) exclude one or more identified foreigners from such categories; and
(ii) for good cause, withdraw such rights from a foreigner or a category of foreigners
The conditions provided for under the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit dispensation
The conditions provided for under the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit dispensation are set out as follows on the Home Affairs website –
- Entitles the holder to work/ study and/or conduct business.
- Does not entitle the holder the right to apply for permanent residence irrespective of the period of stay in the Republic of South Africa.
- Will not be renewable / extendable.
- Does not allow a holder to change conditions of his/her permit while in South Africa.
- ZSP permit holders who wish to convert their status to any other mainstream visa should apply timeously for such visa from within SA provided they meet all the requirements for that visa.
- A ZSP applicant will be allowed to travel using the ZEP receipt and the expired ZSP permit until such time as the ZEP permit is issued, without being declared undesirable.
Cabinet minutes section 6 – Special Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP)
6.1. Cabinet considered the much talked about ZEP and also noted the fake news being spread on these permits. The first Zimbabwean special dispensation started in 2009 and was called the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Permit. It provided for the documentation of qualifying Zimbabweans for a five-year period.
6.2. In 2014, the dispensation was extended by three years and called the Zimbabwean Special Permit. The current ZEP was initiated in 2017 and comes to an end on 31 December 2021.
6.3. Following its deliberations, Cabinet decided to no longer issue extensions to the Zimbabwean special dispensations. However, it decided on a 12 months grace period at the expiry of the current ZEP.
6.4. During this period, the holders of this permit should apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation. At the expiry of this 12-month period, those who are not successful will have to leave South Africa or be deported.
As soon as more information becomes available from Government – we will advise our members immediately.