Analysts sceptical about the prospects of ZEP returnees

Phillipa Jaja

Analysts have painted a bleak outlook on the resultant economic implications on the country bound to arise due to the return of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) holders.

Thousands of Zimbabweans who have been working and living in South Africa face deportation at the end of June next year when their permits expire, raising concerns over the implications of the return on the country’s economy and politics.

Vivid Gwede, a political analyst said unemployment was set to rise and further painted a miserable future for the relatives of those returning home who have been surviving on remittances.

“The return of ZEP holders will simply mean that the unemployed contingent in the country has grown. Families that have been relying on remittances from South Africa will now find it difficult to survive. It’s their equivalent of doomsday.”

Another analyst Zunidza, shared the same sentiments on unemployment rates rising and debunked the notion that their numbers would influence the election outcome.

“There are not many opportunities in the job industry for these returnees and therefore any such impact will be negligible. Once back, they are all likely to occupy themselves in the buying and selling trade thereby broadening the country’s informal sector.”

He pointed their insignificance regarding their being the ideal electorate for the opposition party.

“Their numbers of around 200 000 will also not cause any significant swing in the way of election votes as some come without a voting culture having been outside for long thus will not bother to register to vote while the remainder who do will still be split among the local political parties. The expectation that most diasporans are anti-Zanu PF is without strong basis as there is a large section that blames their exile on western sanctions.”

Prosper Chitambara, an economic analyst noted that the return of the ZEP holders would present a unique set of challenges for the government in terms of social service provision.

“Well it means the government has to invest more in our social services. It has to put more resources in our infrastructure so I think that is the challenge that the government has to grapple in terms of greater investments in key sectors of our economy,” he said.

The Zimbabwean government has expressed its readiness to receive its nationals that are being deported from South Africa following the expiry of the ZEPs. In addition it has availed some lucrative packages which include duty free for one car and no limits to personal property.

Mass deportations of undocumented Zimbabweans are expected from South Africa following expiry of the ZEPs which South Africa had granted them.

The ZEPs were given to Zimbabweans with skills that were crucial for the development of South Africa, but now the country believes there are enough of its citizens available with required skills and so is declining to renew the special Zimbabwean permits or issue new ones.

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