Many of the 200,000 Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa through the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP) may be in the country illegally after the end of this year.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba yesterday announced that the ZSP could not continue forever and that some Zimbabweans may be forced to regularise their stay in the country or apply for visas like other foreign nationals.
"We can't offer permanent residency for such a high number of people," warned Gigaba, adding that this would set a precedence of permanency.
He revealed that there were 197000 on the ZSP and acknowledged that many Zimbabweans were concerned about their status in the country after December 31 2017, when the ZSP is due to expire and cannot be renewed.
Gigaba said he would make an announcement on the ZSP before the end of this month.
He pleaded with Zimbabweans to take full advantage of other visas provided in SA. "We will make a well-thought-out decision, hopefully with the support of my cabinet colleagues," he said.
Gigaba also revealed that the government was considering setting quotas on the number of foreigners who want to work or run businesses in South Africa.
He said that the government was working on a proposal first made in the green paper on international migration in June to have quotas on the number of economic migrants in the country.
According to the Home Affairs Department, economic migrant refers to foreign nationals who migrate for economic reasons such as seeking employment or to conduct business. Gigaba was speaking yesterday in Pretoria, where he announced that his department would start enforcing South African law requiring that 60% of all workforces should be made up of locals in the hospitality sector.
He said he wanted all companies to comply with the 60% requirement. "We're not taking an antagonistic approach with the industry, we're not looking at a punitive approach," Gigaba said.
Home Affairs will also be enforcing this law in the construction, agriculture and mining industries, which also have a number of foreign nationals in their employ. He said some mining companies had already approached the department to access corporate visas.
Roshan Dadoo of the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA said the looming end of the ZSP made no sense as it could lead to Zimbabweans with jobs in the country being declared illegal.
Dadoo warned that this would create fear and uncertainty.
She said the enforcement of the 60% requirement would add a layer of bureaucracy as it was unclear whether Home Affairs had the capacity