The South African government has hired private lawyers to assist it clear a backlog of applications by Zimbabweans seeking to beat a December 31 expiry of special exemption permit, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced.
Motsoaledi said Friday that his ministry has put together a team led by former director general in the Presidency, Cassius Lubisi that is assisting it to process applications by thousands of Zimbabweans seeking to acquire new work permits ahead of the expiry of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs) at the end of the year.
Other members of the team are “lawyers from the private sector who will sit every day to process these documents to make sure that we don't develop any backlog,” Motsoaledi said.
Thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa have been in limbo since the Pretoria authorities announced in November 2021 their decision to discontinue the ZEPs by 31 December 2022.
The ZEPs, which were introduced in 2009, have allowed Zimbabweans to work in South Africa without attaining normal work permits that are issued to other foreign nationals.
The pending expiry of the ZEPs means that Zimbabweans have to legitimise their stay through other forms of residency authorisation.
To get a work permit, the Zimbabweans have to apply to the Ministry of Home Affairs and prove that they possess a special skill that is not available in South Africa.
The ministry has, however, been struggling to process the applications, resulting in a backlog.