The ZSP was replaced by the current Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) which expires on 31 December 2021. Approximately 180,000 Zimbabwean nationals are in possession of a ZEP.
Despite the history of these extensions, on 29 November 2021, a directive was issued by the Director General of the Department of Home Affairs confirming Cabinet’s decision that no further extensions would be granted to Zimbabwean nationals who are holders of a ZEP.
A grace period of 12 months (i.e. until 31 December 2022) has, however, been granted to all ZEP holders to provide them with sufficient time to legalise their status in South Africa through the mechanisms provided for in terms of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 (Act). ZEP holders must therefore apply for a visa, appropriate to their circumstances, in accordance with the Act, and ensure that their applications meet the applicable requirements. All ZEP holders whose applications are unsuccessful will be required to leave South Africa or risk being deported.
While all ZEP’s will expire on 31 December 2021, all organisations, including employers, must allow ZEP holders to continue rendering their services. This is, however, conditional upon the ZEP holder furnishing proof that a visa application has been submitted to Visa Facilitation Services Global (VFS), in the form of a VFS receipt.
In addition, all ZEP holders must be allowed to travel to and from South Africa, without restriction, until 31 December 2022.
In light of the above decision, all ZEP holders must apply to VFS for an appropriate visa that will confirm their legal status in South Africa without delay. In addition, employers who currently employ ZEP holders should inform their employees of the implications of the directive and encourage them to apply for an appropriate work permit, failing which their capacity to remain employed in South Africa will be affected.