The Zimbabwean government has made an impassioned plea to South African authorities to regularise the stay of over two million Zimbabweans illegally living in the neighbouring country by giving them special permits.
This follows a decision by the South African government on Tuesday to issue 250 000 permits to Zimbabweans in a bid to document illegal settlers who crossed the border as a result of the political and socio-economic situation in Zimbabwe since 2000.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Defence Forces Day celebrations on Harare on Tuesday, Kembo Mohadi, the Home Affairs minister, said while government was happy with the decision by South Africa, he would want to see those who had entered South Africa using undesignated entry points being regularised as well.
“We are obviously happy with the development but we would also want them to account for the other 2,7 million Zimbabweans who are there illegally,” Mohadi said. “We want to know where they are and it would be proper if they were also to have their documents regularised.”
Mohadi expressed concern at the manner in which the illegal immigrants were deported back to Zimbabwe by South African authorities, with some complaining that they were not given time to collect their belongings.
“Last week, I engaged my South African counterpart over the issue and we are working on the modalities to correct the situation. We will keep engaging to see how it can be done,” Mohadi said.Malusi Gigaba, the South African Home Affairs minister, on Tuesday announced that the SA Cabinet had approved the renewal of 250 000 Zimbabwean permits.Permits for Zimbabweans who are legally resident in South Africa were due to expire in December.
Prior to the decision, the majority of the immigrants were concerned that they would be required to come back home.
They had been issued with special permits in 2009 as part of South Africa’s efforts to help Zimbabwe resolve its socio-political and economic problems.
Unofficial figures put the number of Zimbabweans settled in South Africa — both legally and illegally — at over 3 million.