The South African government has withdrawn a circular sent to banks that prompted the banks to threaten to close the accounts of Zimbabweans who hold special permits known as Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs).
About 200 000 Zimbabweans hold special visas which had allowed them to stay in South Africa since 2009.
On 25 November, South Africa’s Cabinet issued a statement saying the special permits, which expire on 31 December 2021, will not be renewed.
It also announced a 12-month grace period for ZEP holders to apply for other permits that suit their circumstances and threatened to deport those who fail to do so.
However, in an interview on Monday, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the circular sent to banks was withdrawn because it created confusion.
He said permit holders still have the right to stay in the country for another 12 months and should therefore have access to their accounts.
South Africa’s cabinet resolved to end the exemption program after the governing ANC suffered its worst-ever electoral performance in municipal and national elections.
In the elections held on 1 November, ActionSA, an anti-immigrant party formed by former Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, won 16% of the votes in the city in its first contest and a large proportion of the ballots in the capital, Pretoria.