News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday February 16th 2019

Calls for speedy implementation of special Zim permit

Peter Luhanga

Refugee experts and activists have called for the government to speedily implement a promised special dispensation for Zimbabwean nationals.

Without the special dispensation, they argue that undocumented Zimbabweans are vulnerable to labour exploitation.

In April, former home affairs minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula announced plans for a special dispensation for Zimbabwean migrants that would enable them to legally stay and work in South Africa for up to 12 months.

But with a cabinet reshuffle after April elections, home affairs spokesperson Siobhan McCarthy said new minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was still looking at how the special dispensation would operate. In the meantime it was not available for Zimbabwean nationals.

She said the department needed to consult with cabinet and other government departments. When approved, the special dispensation would be rolled out, although McCarthy was unable to give a timeframe.

Tara Polzer, a researcher at the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand, said plans for the special dispensation permit had been announced together with two other policies, a moratorium on the deportation of Zimbabwean nationals and a free 90-day visa for Zimbabweans entering the country.

Polzer said although the two provisions had been implemented in May, the delay in rolling out the special dispensation permits meant that Zimbabwean nationals remained “vulnerable to labour exploitation and other forms of vulnerability.”

Polzer said the dispensation would enable the improvement of labour standards by reducing the duel labour market in which some employers had undocumented migrants at lower wages.

Braam Hanekom, chairman of People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (Passop), said the delay in issuing the special dispensation permits had created a “vulnerable labour market”.

Hanekom said undocumented Zimbabweans were willing to work for less, making them vulnerable to exploitation. This was also a factor that contributed to xenophobia.

Zimbabwean nationals are also keen to see the dispensation implemented.

Prince Lloyd, 25, a Zimbabwean who came to South Africa three years ago, said he had a Section 22 permit, but this needed to be renewed every three months. He said the process of renewing the permit was time consuming, something a special dispensation system would solve.

— West Cape News

Tags: Refugees, xenophobia

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