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Almost one million Zimbabweans will be negatively affected by South Africa’s decision to discontinue the Zimbabwe Extension Permit (ZEP) scheme.
According to the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association (ZEPHA), the number of permit holders is about 160 000, but each person has an average of three to four dependents.
The majority of ZEP holders face possible deportation before the June 2023 expiration of their work permits.
Matilda Tebogo (not her real name), a 35-year-old shopkeeper, told Al Jazeera that she was stressed about what lies ahead for her and her family.
Tebogo said she has been living and working in Cape Town for more than 10 years under the ZEP scheme and has two children attending school in the neighbouring country. She said:
Everything is unclear and we don’t know what to do. My children know nothing about Zimbabwe. It will be difficult to leave.
Around 2008, thousands of Zimbabweans crossed the border into South Africa seeking better economic opportunities after the Zimbabwean economy had virtually collapsed.
South Africa then introduced the Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) to legalise Zimbabweans living and working in the country in 2009.
In 2014, the DZP was renamed to the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP). The name changed again three years later to Zimbabwe Exemption Permit or ZEP.
In September 2022, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs extended the permit which was due to expire on December 31, for a further six months to June 30, 2023.