- Zimbabwe Exemption Permit holders in South Africa who wish to return home have been offered assistance by their government.
- The Zim government has appealed for citizens to return to Zimbabwe before the termination period arrives.
- Zimbabwe spoke about waivers for paying customs duties.
The Zimbabwean government has extended an olive branch to assist 180 000 Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders who wish to return home.
Addressing the media in Pretoria on Thursday, Zimbabwe ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi said the government wants to assist citizens who voluntarily wish to return home before the expiry of their permits on 30 June.
The process would be done online and in-person across South Africa.
“The online registration will be open from 2 February until 3 March.
Hamadziripi claimed the process was not meant to influence Zimbabweans to participate in the coming elections indirectly.
"We call on them to be law abiding and respect the laws of South Africa. The invitation is for voluntary registration. We wish to facilitate and assist Zimbabweans who wish to go back home. It is by no means ... to compel those who don't wish to return home voluntarily,” said Hamadziripi.
He continued that migration is an individual and voluntary decision.
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"Zimbabweans migrate because of various reasons. To all ZEP holders who might decide to stay here and those who might decide to go elsewhere, we are anticipating that they won't be able to renew ZEP by the end of June. Some have raised their hands, asking for assistance.
"We are in consultations and discussions with Pretoria. This decision not to renew ZEP is a sovereign decision by South Africa. We can accept it as a matter of their sovereignty. We are finding ways to minimise difficulties that could be encountered in future by ZEP holders. We don't wish to have our people stranded here at the end of June.”
Hamadziripi added that Zimbabwe respected decisions taken by the South African government.
"We are not involved in decisions taken by South Africa. We may have problems, but we are a country. It is their (Zimbabweans') decision to stay here. It is a subjective decision.
"There are customs regulations that would make those who wish to take home their properties, including cars, pay a certain amount. We will put in waivers for such people. Some may require help to go to their rural homes. Our government is willing to assist.
"When they get to borders, we want to ensure (there is) no congestion," said Hamadziripi.
He added that Zimbabwe was aware of a pending appeal launched against the termination of the ZEP.
"We can't wait for the court's decision. If the court upholds the decision, it's prudent for us to prepare. If there is an extension, we will adjust our programme accordingly. We want to have the number of school-attending children and their grades as we assist ZEP holders in returning home.
"Those children should be able to complete their studies without disruption. We don't wish to have their future disrupted in that manner,” Hamadziripi said.