Harare- Zimbabwe permit holders living in South Africa, who were due to be deported on June 30 have been given a six-month reprieve to regularize their stay in that country, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has said.
In a statement, Motsoaledi said the next six months will allow holders of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) a opportunity to apply for one or more other visas and waivers provided by the South African government.
Motsoaledi assured permit holders that no one will be arrested or deported within this period.
“No holder of a valid exemption permit may be arrested, order to depart or detained in terms of section 34 of the Immigration Act for any reason related to himor her not having any valid exemption certificate,” the statement reads.
Holders of exemption permits will also be allowed to leave or enter South Africa under the new dispensation.
An estimated 1 million Zimbabweans are living in South Africa.
Thousands trek into South Africa through illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River risking their lives for a better life.
Their imminent return had sparked debated of a looming humanitarian crisis ahead of crucial polls in August.
Zimbabwe is currently battling another economic crisis, with the Zimdollar tumbling against other currencies, having lost 70% value since the start of the year.
The Zimbabwean government had said it would welcome back holder of permits when deported but critics argue that the country is not ready to welcome back thousands, if not millions of nationals living in South Africa.
About 100 000 permit holders had applied for government assistance to return home before the reprieve, according to Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi.
In December, IOL reported that ZEP holders had about six months before their documentation to live and work in South Africa expired, and about 180 000 Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa would be affected.