By Mashudu Netsianda
The South African government has dismissed reports claiming that 200 000 Zimbabweans currently on permits issued under the Zimbabwe Special Permits (ZSP) project, were now eligible to apply for the permanent residence permits.
According to online reports quoting South African Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, Zimbabweans were now entitled under section 27 of the Refugee and Immigration Act of 2002, to apply for permanent residence in the neighbouring country.
Minister Gigaba through his personal and official Home Affairs twitter accounts on Monday dismissed the reports, saying it was “fake news.”
“This is fake news! Official statements are available on the Home Affairs website and if DHA (Department of Homes Affairs) did not issue the information, then don’t bank on it,” he said.
Social media has been awash with claims that holders of the special permit would be eligible for permanent residence at the end of the year. There are also messages asking holders to deposit money into given bank accounts for applications to be processed.
Online reports also claimed that the minister said permanent residency could be granted after consideration of the plight of Zimbabweans, who have formed roots in South Africa.
The reports further alleged that eligible ZSP holders must write and email a letter of no more than 500 words to the DHA, explaining in what ways they believe their presence in South Africa will benefit the country, and what their short, medium, and long term life goals are.
According to the reports, the application deadline was April 7, 2017.
Mr Gigaba is on record as saying ZPS holders wishing to extend their stay at the expiry of their permits will do so under the conventional immigration laws.
Last month the Minister announced that Zimbabweans who acquired permits under special dispensation will have to follow the normal channel of applying for work and study visas when their permits expire in December.
He said when the South African government introduced ZSP in August 2014, it had no intention of conferring Zimbabweans with permanent residence status.
The special dispensation allowed Zimbabwean holders of the special permit to work, conduct business or study in South Africa for three years.
ZPS is a programme that replaced the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project (DZP) which ran from May to December 31, 2010. Only those who benefited under the DZP programme were eligible to apply for work and study permits under ZSP.