The Zimbabwean government says most people living and working in South Africa under the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) system do not qualify for critical skills permits, and it is preparing for an influx of returning citizens.
The permits were meant to end on 31 December 2022, but the Department of Home Affairs extended them by a further six months, to give Zimbabweans more time to apply for other visas.
By end of October, fewer than 10% of ZEP holders had applied for the available mainstream visas.
An estimated 180 000 ZEP holders will be affected by the 30 June 2023 deadline set by South Africa.
“Cabinet would like to inform the public that mass deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans were expected from South Africa following the expiry of Zimbabwe Exemptions Permits, which South Africa had granted them,” Zimbabwean Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa told journalists in Harare.
The Zimbabwean government had set up a committee to look into the transport and logistics of returnees, documentation, security, reintegration support, health, education and resource mobilisation, Mutsvangwa said.
The government would allow those returning to bring as many households appliances as they could without paying duty, but they would only be allowed one duty-free vehicle each.
Currently, there are two cases yet to be heard by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria before Judge Colleen Collis and two other judges.
Simba Chitando of African Amity mounted a legal challenge against the home affairs department over the cancellation of the permits. The Zimbabwe Immigration Federation is also challenging the department.