The South African government recently announced that it was extending the validity of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits up until June 30 next year to allow holders to regularize their stay in that country by applying for other visas or waivers.
The reasons for the extension included that only a few Zimbabwean nationals had applied for visas or waivers, just three months before the expiry of the ZEP.
Although the Home Affairs Department in SA, in a statement, said it was committed to affording affected Zimbabwean nationals another opportunity to apply for visas or waivers, those affected should realise that the reason why only few had applied was because very few qualified for the alternative visas!
Therefore, while the latest announcement came as a relief to many, it must be emphasised that people should not relax, but instead, plan ahead for their return back home, because, as alluded to above, onlya few will qualify.
This would mean that the majority of the almost 200 000 ZEP holders will have to voluntarily return home or risk being deported by authorities, or worse still, violently ejected by South Africans, who, over the past few months, have made it clear that they no longer want foreigners in their country.
Understood, many Zimbabweans had made South Africa their second home, with some having invested heavily in that country while some have families with school-going children. But the truth remains that South Africa is not their home and that they cannot gamble their life for prolonged stay in a foreign land where they are not wanted and have been told so several times.
The xenophobic attacks that have been increasing daily cannot be ignored, especially when they have been seemingly getting support from senior ruling party and government officials who have been making inflammatory public statements concerning foreigners, particularly Zimbabweans.
It is therefore, not only the ZEP holders whose stay in SA is uncertain, but an estimated 1.5 million who live in that country illegally. It is true that many Zimbabweans based in South Africa have not done much back home to show for their long stay there and might be embarrassed to come back home empty handed. But again, it is our view that it is still better than dying like dogs in a foreign land.
The embarrassment will surely subside and people will still be able to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives, just the same way they started from scratch in South Africa. Besides, Zimbabwe is home and there is bound to be support from friends and family. So it is our plea to fellow Zimbabweans who know that they don’t have the required skills for them to obtain visas or permits to just accept their fate and start preparing now, bring back whatever they invested in, if any, and prepare for a dignified home coming.
It is never too late to start over again and rebuild one’s life. The late great Reggae icon, Bob Marley’s words should be an inspiration to all: ‘When one door isclosed, many more will open!
Besides, Zimbabwe is for us all and we all have the responsibility to rebuild it into the nation of our dreams; a prosperous and peaceful Zimbabwe which will be the envy of many; including the South Africans who are currently treating fellow Africans like outcasts.
Come back Zimbabweans, this is your country and we love you for who and what you!