The government has extended the Zimbabwean exemption permit (ZEP) granted to Zimbabwean nationals to the end of this year.
This is despite home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently denying that the government would extend the grace period for Zimbabweans working in the country to migrate to other visas before the December 31 2021 deadline.
On Thursday the cabinet said it had decided to grant the grace period.
“During this period the holders of this permit should apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation. This decision was motivated by our desire to ensure eligible Zimbabweans can regularise their stay in SA. We appeal to the holders of this permit to use the 12 months to regularise their status in SA.”
Motsoaledi signed off the extension two days before the deadline on December 29. It was published in a government notice on Friday.
It will essentially allow Zimbabweans a further 12 months (until December 31 2022) to obtain other visas to legally remain in SA.
Nearly 180,000 Zimbabweans hold the permit, first issued in 2009, which saw them excluded from requirements of the immigration and refugee acts.
Motsoaledi previously said the ZEP was put in place to deal with a large influx of Zimbabweans who came to SA in the democratic dispensation. The hope was that once the political situation under then president Robert Mugabe improved, many would return home.