Zimbabweans Face Difficult Choice as Permit Deadline Approaches

From 1 January 2023, hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans and their children will no longer be able to live, work and go to school legally in the republic, writes Tariro Washinyira for GroundUp. This is due to the government’s decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) at the end of 2022.

Some Zimbabweans who held ZEPs shared their anxiety and anguish as they face deportation, uprooting their lives and children and starting all over again in Zimbabwe, or continuing to live in South Africa as undocumented aliens.

Shepherd Muroyiwa who has been running a small market in Parow, Cape Town since 2009, said: “”There are no other people [here] selling what I specialise in. Moving to Zimbabwe would mean the death of my family’s livelihood … We don’t know how we will survive.”

Another ZEP holder, who also asked to stay anonymous, teaches grade 5 maths. Only grade 8 to 12 maths teachers qualify for critical skills. “I will lose my job … Mentally it’s eating me up, trying to think how am I going to survive,” he said. “I had to run away from home, sleep in the mountains and eventually I came to South Africa. I had to sleep in a queue braving cold, rainy weather for days before I got asylum, which I renewed every six months before the government implemented DZP [now the ZEP.]”

The termination of the ZEP will leave about 178,000 Zimbabweans undocumented, as well as thousands of children who have been born in South Africa to parents hiolding the permit. The Helen Suzman Foundation is taking the Minister of Hom

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