Johannesburg - Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has clarified government's decision to withdraw a special dispensation that exempted undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa from deportation.
Government announced last week that it was withdrawing the dispensation introduced in April last year, from 31 December. The exemption was in response to the socio-economic challenges in Zimbabwe, which resulted in large-scale influx of Zimbabweans to South Africa.
Dlamini Zuma said the agreement between South Africa and Zimbabwe was that it would last for 12 months beginning in April 2009 to April this year.
Government decided to extend the period to give Zimbabweans more time to apply for the relevant documents that will ensure their stay in South Africa was legal.
Government spokesperson Themba Maseko said the decision to withdraw the dispensation seeks to ensure that all foreign nationals who reside in South Africa are documented and their presence was regularised.
Several non-governmental organisations have criticised government saying the withdrawal of the special dispensation would lead to massive deportation of "vulnerable" Zimbabweans. However, Dlamini-Zuma said Pretoria and Harare will be working together to ensure that all undocumented Zimbabweans in South Africa were documented before the end of the year.
These include those who are working, studying and in business. "This only applies to undocumented people, many Zimbabweans in South Africa are in possession of their relevant documents, we will only be regularising those who don't have documents because it is our responsibility to do so...we need to know who is in this country," she said.
She dismissed reports that suggested that officials will be embarking on a mass deportation once the special dispensation comes to an end. "We will not just be deporting people come 31 December, no...we are merely saying all undocumented people must get their document during this period to ensure that by January 1 next year their stay in South Africa is regularised that is absolutely normal every country does it. We are just doing what needs to be done, the agreement was that the dispensation would last for a year."
Visitors from the Southern African Development Community countries are given a 90-day window period in South Africa to apply for a Visa to stay in the country.