Looking at the hour glass, time is quickly running out with only a few months left before the grace period which over 178 000 Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders were given to regularise their stay in South Africa or ship out.
It is going to be interesting to see how this issue is going to pan out given the events which have transpired lately.
Both governments, in Zimbabwe as well as in neighbouring South Africa having been treading their diplomatic lines carefully, with either party clearly not wanting to rub the other up the wrong way.
Not long ago, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to SA David Hamadziripi plainly stated that “we have no option but to respect the sovereign decision of South Africa.”
And, as fate would have it, along came the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) with a challenge against the SA Cabinet’s decision to terminate the ZEP, which, obviously came as a big sigh of relief and reprieve for the Zimbabweans community in SA.
Being one of SA’s most profound institutions, by adding their voice to the ZEP issue, the HSF has rather exposed the flouting of laws by the SA Home Affairs department in an attempt to deal with the immigration crisis without following the proper procedures or at least give the thousands of Zimbabwean nationals who have studied, worked and live legally in SA-a fair chance to be heard.
It is also very important to point out that the way this issue has been poorly handled by the two governments will see it become a problem in the whole SADC region.
Firstly, the current holders of the permit have been living in the neighbouring country for a very long time and have established families and businesses there and it is going to be impossible for them to just up and leave by year end.
Secondly, as the state of the economy here in Zimbabwe continues to deteriorate, there’s no doubt that no one will be willing to leave SA to come back home where there is increasing poverty, violence and persecution, the reasons why they fled in the first place.
Even if they are to be bundled in trucks and dropped across the border into Zimbabwe, where it will obviously be very difficult for them to adapt and adjust, chances are majority will find their way back one way or the other, legal or otherwise.
For those that will choose home, there will be need for government assistance, which seems to be a tall task at the moment given that it currently has bigger fish to fry, with teachers, nurses and other government employees threatening to down tools due to incapacitation.
Across Limpopo, the ANC led government is feeling the same pressure.
As the neighbouring country is heading for its general elections, the issue of immigration has been one selling point which many politicians took advantage of and used to cover their own governance failures, corruption and mismanagement.
Foreign nationals in SA, particularly Zimbabweans have been accused for snatching jobs away from the locals.
With a soaring unemployment rate and poverty, this wildly inaccurate assumption that more jobs will be up for grabs once all foreign nationals leave SA surprisingly has been accepted in some circles.
Rights groups in the neighbouring country have also been working round the clock to push the SA government into reconsideration.
Groups which include the Africa Diaspora Global Network and Kopanang Africa against Xenophobia (KAAX) have been calling for proper consultation from the SA government in order to find lasting solutions and the resumption of the special permit system.
A rethink of the decision by the SA government will be therefore, at least for now, the best way forward while the two governments put their houses in order.