Immigration stakeholders such as the Helen Suzman Foundation contend that the Department of Home Affairs lacks the capacity to deal fairly with Zimbabweans seeking to regularise their stay in South Africa and therefore must be made to reconsider its decision by the courts.
Fine Arts Student Musa Nyathi 23, a student who has lived in South Africa for 14 years since the age of nine, is one of those who will be forced to return to Zimbabwe by June next year, without finishing his studies. Nyathi has been languishing at home for the last ten months.
2021 was meant to be the last year of his studies at the Tshwane University of Technology but failing one of his modules meant he would have to register in 2022 to complete his degree.
“I had a problem when I applied for my visa application late last year, I was told that I would have a certain grace period but when I went to apply they told me that the grace period is for refugees and people under that catalogue,” says Nyathi.
His attempt to explain to the Department of Home Affairs the circumstances relating to the week’s delay in submitting his visa application fell on deaf ears.
Exodus of Zimbabweans from SA due to expiring ZEP unlikely:
Nyathi says, “I’m not sure what kind of reasons they were looking for because there were actually unforeseen circumstances. I was expecting to complete my course last year and by the end of the year move back home but due to the COVID-19 regulations and the likes we ended up having our exams later on the latest in early December.”
Since 2008, his mother has religiously ensured the family is on the right side of the law with regards to its immigration status. According to the Helen Suzman Foundation, however, Nyathi’s situation is happening all too often as the expiry of the ZEP in June next year approaches.
The Foundation says, “There has been tremendous confusion and uncertainty, we are also coming out of a period of COVID-19 which has meant the backlogs which were already in existence have just be exacerbated and it has meant that individuals who are seeking to have assistance and guidance from the Department in respect of exemptions they may obtain, other visas for which they may be eligible are coming up short they are not able to elicit the responses they need it means our offices have been inundated with many desperate Zimbabwean nationals explaining the circumstances what this is going to mean?”
Home Affairs extends Zimbabwean Exemption Permit by six months
The Foundation together with a number of civil society organisations is taking the Department of Home Affairs to court at a date still to be determined. They want a process of consultation to precede any decision by the Minister to end the permits.
“So that a decision is made fully cognisant of the wellbeing and the welfare of those children who are simply going to be removed from their schooling system its going to be taking cognisant of those who have real health issues the inability to access the medication they would need in Zimbabwe so I think if a decision is to be made to end it must be made cognisant of all those circumstances,” says the Foundation.
Meanwhile the Department is probing, at the SABC’s request, why eight months after Nyathi has appealed its decision to reject his visa application, he is still waiting for a response despite a number of follow up inquiries. Musa for his part continues to face an uncertain future.
“I honestly just want to complete my course because I only had a single module left that I was unable to complete last year but if I am free to do so I may freely leave the country,” says Nyathi.
ANALYSIS l The extension of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits