The Department of Home Affairs has announced the opening of permanent resident applications. This comes after the application process was closed for almost two years.
Home Affairs has not been considering permanent applications for the past 22 months as the department looked to clear the backlog of applications accumulated over the past ten years.
It is estimated that the Department of Home Affairs has a backlog of around 55 000 permanent resident applications. President of the African Diaspora Global Network, Dr. Vusumuzi Sibanda says that estimate is very conservative.
Sibanda believes the backlog will be compounded as more than 170 000 Zimbaweans will apply for permanent resident status. He explains that the process of applying for permanent residency should take around eight months. However, it could take up to 24 months.
In November 2021, South Africa’s cabinet decided to no longer issue extensions to the Special Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP). This will see Zimbanweans living in South Africa return to their country if they do not secure work permits or other relevant documentation.
More than 182 000 Zimbweans applied for the exemption permit since applications began in 2017. This process closed on the final day of 2021. After a 12 month grace period, Zimbabweans will either have to leave South Africa or face deportation.
He said, “the only option that we will have is to approach the courts to force the minister to make these decisions and maybe you know in near future what we foresee is obviously a situation where we might actually ask the court to give some form of a declarator that waiting for a much longer period of time than the eight months that is expected it's actually a violation of the human rights”.
Being a permanent resident gives people the rights and responsibilities of a South African resident. They won't however be able to vote in South African elections.