During the course of 2009, our Cabinet approved the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP). In essence, qualifying Zimbabweans were issued with work permits without having to comply with all of the stringent requirements prescribed in terms of the Immigration Act, No 13 of 2002 (Act).

The purpose of the project was to regularise undocumented Zimbabweans currently residing in South Africa. Approximately 295,000 Zimbabweans applied for the permit and just over 244,500 permits were issued.

The majority of the permits issued in terms of the DZP will expire before 31 December 2014. The impending expiry date necessitated the recent announcement made by the Department of Home Affairs in terms of s31 of the Act. In terms of s31, the Minister of Home Affairs may upon application grant foreigners the right of permanent residence for a specified or unspecified period when special circumstances exist.

On 12 August 2014, the Minister of Home Affairs announced the closure of the DZP as of 31 December 2014. It is important to note that DZP permits which expire before 31 December 2014 will be delayed until 31 December 2014 and those which expire after 31 December 2014 will expire on 31 December 2014.

Zimbabweans who currently reside in South Africa in terms of the DZP may, however, apply for the newly created Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit of 2014 (ZSP).

Even though it is more than a month since this announcement has been made, all of the requirements for the ZSP are yet to be issued. In terms of the statement issued by the Department of Home Affairs, applicants would at the very least have to provide a valid Zimbabwean passport, evidence of employment, proof of business or accredited study and a clear criminal record.

Should all of these requirements be met, the applicant will be issued with a permit that will be valid until 31 December 2017. Applications will open on 1 October 2014 and close on 31 December 2014. All ZSP applications can be submitted in-country at the relevant VFS office located in the province in which the applicant ordinarily resides.

The ZSPs will provide a temporary bridge to the near future whereafter all Zimbabweans will need to re-enter the main stream immigration process in South Africa.