THE deepening economic crisis has resulted in a renewed exodus of Zimbabweans seeking greener pastures with most heading to neighbouring South Africa, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Statistics made available by the South African embassy shows that work permit and study visa applications processed by the embassy in 2015 have doubled to 300 per day from about 150 per day in 2014.
The embassy is processing about 6 000 applications a month which translates to about 72 000 applications a year as hordes of Zimbabweans seek economic refuge.
The exodus has coincided with many companies either shutting or scaling down operations resulting in massive job loses.
Zimbabwe’s economy, which recorded double digit growth rates after the formation an inclusive government in 2009, whose term lapsed I 2013, is this year seen registering a modest 2,7% growth rate.
South African Ambassador to Zimbabwe Vusi Mavimbela told the Independent in an interview this week that the embassy is overwhelmed with the increased study and work permit applications.
Traditionally, applications reach a peak between November and March.
“The queues are longer this year, others are actually being turned away and are asked to submit their applications at a later date since the embassy is also dealing with backlog of both study visas as well as work permits,” said Mavimbela.
Students who had come to collect their visas said they prefer to study in South Africa as there were higher chances of securing employment upon completion of their studies.
“These statistics consist of a few law-abiding Zimbabweans who are willing to apply and wait for their work permits, there are still many that are not captured in the system but still live and work in South Africa,” said Mavimbela.
Independent estimates show that the country’s unemployment rate currently stands at 85% while government figures released in the last population census put the figure at 11% despite massive de-industrialisation that has thrown thousands onto the streets.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s major trading partner with imports from that country accounting for nearly 70%.
In August 2014 South Africa extended an olive branch to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans living in the country when it granted three-year special permits to ease an immigration crisis.
Recent reports however show that nearly 12 000 applications have been rejected resulting in deportations.
The Zimbabwe Special Permit, which expires in December 2017 allows permit holders to live, work, conduct business and study in South Africa for the duration of the permit.
On Wednesday government said it had received over 14 000 applications from graduates of tertiary institutions seeking possible employment in several countries showing the level of desperation amongst unemployed Zimbabweans.
The export of labour will start as soon as the human export policy done by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development has been approved by cabinet.