This may be a case of the chickens finally coming home to roost.  The Minister’s comments this week may have not been what the community of Zimbabweans living in South Africa of the Special Dispensation permits had hoped to hear. For the first time since the announcement of the renewal of the Dispensation permits, the Minister has shed some light on the question of what is the fate of all those 250 000 odd Zimbabweans issued with the 3-year permit. The Minister made it clear that he expected all those issued with these permits to apply for the appropriate visas before December 2017 and although he refused to comment on whether the Department would deport those who had not complied by then, it is hard to see any other move being taken.  So what next is the question.

I for one believe in planning for the worst but expecting the best. In this case moving from the ZSP before the rush next year would be a prudent move.  The biggest stumbling block with this is the restrictive condition attached to the permit that requires the holders to apply for a change of conditions from Harare.  Ordinarily, one would not expect this to be an issue as a change from the ZSP permit to another permit is a change of status and  not a change of conditions  and thus  permissible in the republic.  However, The Department and VFS have interpreted this provision to mean barring a change of status completely.  Thus condemning everyone to apply for the change of status from Zimbabwe.  This would not be an issue if submitting in Harare did not come with problem that the SA embassy will retain the passport until the visa application is finalised.  An action that is bewildering and a major barrier to people complying with erroneous interpretation mentioned above.

The choices are certainly limited but what is now certain is that the ZSP will not be renewed and perhaps efforts should be aimed at either applying for a visa in Zimbabwe or making a case to the Minister to allow the submission  of applications in South Africa.

Munyaradzi Nkomo

Lead immigration specialist at Strategies  Migration Services SA


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