Zimbabweans in South Africa have expressed mixed feelings as the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) facility is left with six months before the extension expiry.
The South African government announced that it would terminate the ZEP facility on 30 June 2023, a decision that will affect about 180 000 Zimbabweans residing in that country.
As early as October, the Zimbabwean government announced that it was prepared for its nationals who were coming home to start a new life and would assist them with transport and other logistics.
Statistics from the Home Affairs department suggest that there has been a low uptake of other visa facilities amid reports that some Zimbabweans are looking for jobs abroad as caregivers and elementary school teachers.
On average, more than 12 000 people are entering Zimbabwe through Beitbridge daily during the festive season.
Between 5-10 December, 62 770 people entered Zimbabwe through the Beitbridge border.
South Africa’s head of immigration at the border, Cannie Magaya, told News24 that although they had no figures yet, on the days leading up to Christmas, there had been an increase in traffic.
She said it could stay like that until early January when people start returning to South Africa.
Brian Moyo, a Zimbabwean working as a teacher in SA, didn’t apply for the special skills visa because he felt it was a waste of time.
While he is going back home in early January, he has set his sights on jobs in China. He said:
I teach English and that’s not a special skill. I stood a chance as a science or mathematics teacher, as such, applying for other visas was a waste of time for me.
Moyo who taught at some private schools back home before migrating to South Africa feels his experience there could help him in China.
Salaries for teaching jobs in China range from R70 000 to R120 000, depending on the type of school and level of experience.
Another opportunity will come into effect in March when the United Kingdom opens up for teachers from South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.
Working in South Africa has also become very difficult for those spending their money in Zimbabwe because of the rand’s volatility against the US dollar, the preferred currency of trade.
During the festive season, R100 is the equivalent of $5.80, but most shops or businesses only value it at $5.
Steven Tshuma, another Zimbabwean based in South Africa said he is starting a nurse aid course with the Red Cross in SA early next year to capacitate him to work in Canada or Australia.
Tshuma who works at a restaurant and has come face to face with members of Operation Dudula – a vigilante group that intimidates migrants, says he has no excuse to be in South Africa as Dudula “could burn us alive.”
By the 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 the government.
Shiela Ncube, a domestic worker in Johannesburg, has no plans of leaving the country.
She hopes her boss will find a way around the system to keep her in SA.
She has been with the family for close to a decade.
Asked about looking for housekeeping jobs abroad, she replied: “No way.”