Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT has condemned criminal behaviour by some Zimbabweans based in South Africa and says modalities are being worked on to absorb diaspora returnees at the expiry of the amnesty under the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP).
Thousands of Zimbabweans were beneficiaries of ZEP, which the neighbouring country discontinued last year.
South Africa gave Zimbabwean nationals amnesty up to the end of the year to regularise their stay under its different visa regimes. At least 200 000 Zimbabweans will be affected by the termination of the ZEP.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Frederick Shava, said yesterday during the Bi-National Commission (BNC) Mid-Term Review meeting with his South African counterpart, International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) Minister Dr Naledi Pandor in Pretoria, that Zimbabwe was ready to receive its citizens back. The meeting was a follow up to the third BNC, which was held in Harare in March in 2019.
He said the expiry of ZEP has caused anxiety among Zimbabweans, but the country stands ready to receive them back home.
“Our two Governments must work closely in the implementation of this decision. We are ready to receive our nationals back home. At the same time, I would like to reiterate our appeal to Zimbabweans in South Africa to observe and respect the laws of South Africa,” said Dr Shava.
“It’s a must for each and every Zimbabwean to promote and protect the good image of Zimbabwe wherever they are. We condemn all and any form of criminality on the part of our nationals in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.”
Dr Shava said Zimbabwe will continue to work with South Africa in dealing with the issue of illegal immigrants and stressed the need to improve trade relations so that the country benefits as opposed to the prevailing situation where the neighbouring country seems to benefit more.
Dr Shava said urgency and diligence were needed in the implementation of the BNC resolutions.
“I’m very pleased that we have deliberated in a candid, open and friendly manner on the issues that were before us. We discussed a lengthy agenda with the objective of enhancing our bilateral cooperation,” said Dr Shava.
“We have agreed to work with more urgency to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves. We hope that we will so achieve. There is no alternative to the success of our cooperation under the BNC but diligence in implementing the decisions that we jointly took.”
He said the ministerial midterm review meeting is a firm foundation of the engagements between President Mnangagwa and his counterpart President Cyril Ramaphosa in the next BNC.
“It’s clear from our meeting that there are a number of MoU that are outstanding that need to be attended to. These need to be finalised before the fourth session of our BNC.
“Our call to our senior officers is to work together as a team for our two countries to realise our development goals for the benefit of our citizens,” he said.
Dr Pandor said Zimbabwe and South Africa trade relations increased by nearly R8 billion between 2020 and last year despite the negative impact of Covid-19.
“I’m pleased to record that despite the constraint of the pandemic, total trade between South Africa and Zimbabwe increased from a quantum of R38 billion in 2020 to 47,5 billion in 2021.
“I trust our delegations will align this positive development and I note that the surplus lies with South Africa, we would like to see greater benefit to Zimbabwe economic sectors as well,” said Dr Pandor.
She said the two parties resolved to prioritise urgent cooperation in migration, defence and security and agriculture.
“Our discussions were constructive and conducted in the spirit of friendship, which characterise the state of the bilateral relations. The report indicates that much has been made in the implementation of MoU which the two countries have previously signed,” said Dr Pandor.
She said they agreed to hold the midterm BNC meetings on a regular basis to address pressing issues including that of migration.
Dr Pandor said the BNC engagement should benefit ordinary citizens from the two countries. Zimbabwe and South Africa have 45 MoUs that need to be implemented. — @nqotshili