GOVERNMENT has practically dumped Zimbabwean students affected by a recent South African government directive which withdrew a waiver allowing students to apply for permanent residence permits.
There are strong indications that the government of Zimbabwe is not going to interfere with the directive citing that South Africa is a sovereign state whose decisions must be respected.
The directive by South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi withdrew the blanket waiver which was granted in April 2016, targeting all foreign students based in that country.
Before the directive, foreign students studying in areas of critical skills could apply for permanent residence before attaining five years post-qualification experience, or without submitting testimonials from employers.
An official at the Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa told the Zimbabwe Independent that there was no need for an outcry or any form of intervention because South Africa is a sovereign country which does not owe anyone an explanation.
“These directives are issued by the government of South Africa in the exercise of its sovereignty.
We cannot and must not appear to be challenging or questioning the government’s authority to do so.
“This is a directive that has general application.
It’s not directed at Zimbabweans only and we have not received any request for assistance from any of our students in respect of this directive.
Our standing advice to all our nationals here is that they must abide by the laws of this country.
That is a fundamental requirement,” the official said.
“That is the advice coming from the embassy.
The embassy can make representations to the South African government where the circumstances warrant such representation and only if the aggrieved national or nationals bring their grievances to our attention,” the official added.
In the past, the embassy made representations on behalf of students who would have been waiting for the issuance of their visas for a very long time.
According to a January 31, 2022 Immigration Directive No. 2 of 2022, Motsoaledi said students who wished to apply for permanent residency permits, had to comply with the country’s immigration laws.
“By virtue of the power vested in me by section 31(2) of the Immigration Act, 2002, Act No 13 of 2002, I hereby withdraw the blanket waiver which was granted on April 21, 2016, which waiver allowed foreign graduates at South African tertiary institution that studied towards degrees in the area of critical skills, to apply for a permanent residency permit without the need of first acquiring five years post-qualification experience or the need to submit testimonials from employees,” Motsoaledi said.
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi said his office was still assessing the impact of Motsoaledi’s directive on Zimbabwean students in the neighbouring country.
“I have just seen the minister’s directive and it is, obviously, going to affect a lot of Zimbabweans based in South Africa.
However, I have not yet met my staff to assess the impact of the said directive. We will be convening a meeting with my colleagues so that we come up with an informed opinion on the latest development,” Hamadziripi said.
The latest directive comes after Pretoria stopped renewing the Zimbabwean Special Permits (ZEPs) that expired in December last year, and opted to give the permit holders a year to move to other visa regimes or face deportation.
ZEP was introduced in 2009 by then Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as a temporary solution to a growing refugee crisis related to Zimbabwe.
There are an estimated 180 000 ZEP holders in South Africa.
In December, ZEP holders filed urgent court applications to overturn the decision taken by Motsoaledi not to renew their permits.
The High Court in Pretoria struck their applications off the roll of urgent matters.
South African nationals are lobbying for Zimbabwean immigrants to leave accusing them of stealing jobs.
South Africa has to date tightened border control measures to stop illegal immigrants from entering that country.
Analysts said the neighbouring country was putting in place stringent immigration measures to deal with internal political problems ahead of its 2024 elections.
Some political parties such as ActionSA and the Patriotic Alliance performed well in SA’s November 2021 municipal elections after riding on the anti-immigrant sentiment.
In January, there were reports of xenophobic attacks against Zimbabwean immigrants in areas such as Diepkloof, Rosebank and Turfontein.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa are estimated to be around three million.