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“Special dispensation” Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa under review

11 June 2009: All is not well for the “undocumented” Zimbabwean migrants already in South Africa. The proposed “special dispensation” giving them the right to live and work for up to a year has been referred back for discussion by Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The recently introduced visa-free entry facility allowing Zimbabwean passport holders the right to work in SA for 90 days is also under her department’s scanner.

Home affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said Dlamini- Zuma was reviewing all processes in the department; and the proposed special dispensation was among the measures sent back for discussion on the “nature, scope and implication of the decision”.

Government insiders said some quarters believed there had not been enough consultation before announcing the measures. Other concerns were that neighbouring countries did not have renewable visa-free entry for Zimbabweans. The visitors to SA from countries such as Mozambique qualified only for a limited period during the year, and had no right to work.

The facilities were aimed at addressing the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe, where many now live off foreign remittances. Registration of border jumpers was also meant to improve the security situation. In addition, the special permit for undocumented Zimbabwean immigrants would have saved money spent on deporting people who almost always returned to SA. Loren Landau, head of the Forced Migration Studies Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand, suspects that any change of plans by home affairs was for the sake of short- term domestic interests. During an “economic downturn and job losses, there will always be sentiments against immigration”, he said.

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