More than 178 000 Zimbabweans are expected back home from South Arica after the expiry of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) in June this year.
The imminent return of Zimbabweans, who have been living in South Africa, comes after the neighbouring country announced last year that it will not renew special permits for Zimbabweans without critical skills.
Writing in his weekly column, which is published in this issue, President Mnangagwa said a total of 178 412 nationals, including their families and dependents were expected home.
“Through our Embassy in South Africa, Government has availed a portal for them to register so their whereabouts and needs are known in anticipation of the repatriation exercise. Some have been away from home for quite a while and, until now, had set base in South Africa. The ZEP allowed Zimbabweans to lawfully remain in the sister the Republic of South Africa in order to pursue their education, to work or set up businesses. With a strong educational foundation and largely highly skilled in different trades and disciplines, our nationals have been active across a wide spectrum of the South African economy. They will not be hard-pressed for options,” he said.
The President said Zimbabwe was ready to welcome its citizens back home and had put systems in place to make sure that returnees were fully integrated into the society and contributed to the social and economic well-being of the country.
“We are preparing for their return, and to warmly welcome them once they step on home soil. We will do so fully confidence that their return and re-integration into their families and communities, and with relatives and friends will be smooth. The government will assist them as they prepare to resume a productive life as full citizens back in the land of their birth.”
President Mnangagwa also thanked neighbouring countries that gave sanctuary to Zimbabweans while the country worked on its economic recovery.
“We thank all those countries which gave them shelter and more skills while we sorted out our affairs for recovery and growth. South Africa ranks foremost among those countries. With our economy now on an irreversible growth trajectory, the time has now come for our nation to claim back its own and assume full responsibility for its citizens who may wish or need to come back home. They now have opportunities to contribute here at home. This is how my Government views this latest development,” he said.
The President said a mopping team will leave for South Africa this week to ensure preparations are comprehensive and attend to every detail.
“The team comprises officials from many different Government departments to ensure preparations are comprehensive and attend to every detail.
The team includes medical experts and officials from several ministries, including those from Primary and Secondary Education. We have to ensure that pupils already in South African schools are not prejudiced during the translocation of families.
They have to be re-inserted in classes with minimum disruption. We also need to ensure families which had acquired assets do not lose out as they relocate back home. Those assets will give them a head-start as they resume life back home.
Our medical experts will ensure that the whole programme is alive to issues of public health, principally risks posed by Covid-19 infections as our people move back.”
The President highlighted that he recently had a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa and the director-general of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Professor Antonio Vitorino, to ensure a smooth return of Zimbabweans back home.