The Government appears reluctant to interfere with a recent directive by South Africa to withdraw a waiver allowing foreign students to apply for permanent residence permits.
The directive by South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi withdrew the blanket waiver which was granted in April 2016 to all foreign students studying at the country’s educational institutions.
Before the directive, which was issued last month, 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.
Zimbabwe appears to be unwilling to be involved in the issue though it affects its nationals citing that South Africa is a sovereign state whose decisions must be respected. The Zimbabwe Independent quotes an unnamed official as saying:
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. 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 nationals or nationals bring their grievances to our attention.
Contacted for comment by the publication, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi, said his office was still assessing how the directive would affect Zimbabwean students in the neighbouring country. Said Hamadziripi:
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.
Late last year, South Africa discontinued the Zimbabwean Special Permits (ZEPs) that expired in December and opted to give the permit holders a year to apply for other visa regimes or face deportation.
Analysts believe that South Africa was tightening immigration regulations to deal with internal political problems ahead of its 2024 general elections after some far-right anti-immigration parties gained some ground in the November 2021 municipal elections.
South Africa hosts millions of Zimbabweans, with some migrants having crossed the border illegally.