Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter

ZIMBABWEANS living and working in South Africa have welcomed the announcement on the proposed reopening of the borders on 1 October, saying authorities must however, not penalise those who overstayed or had their visas lapsing while held up by the lockdown.

In a statement, an organisation that represents the locals in the neigbouring country, The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, said they would engage the Department of Home Affairs on the matter.

“The Zimbabwe Community in South Africa welcomes the announcement by both the Governments of Zimbabwe and South Africa to open borders on the 1st of October. This is a welcome development. We are engaging the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that the announcement that was made by the Home Affairs Minister not to penalise those that would have had their visas and permitted number of days lapsing while on lock-down are not penalised and that borders officials do not penalise them,” said Zimbabwe Community in South Africa spokesman Mr Bongani Mkwananzi.

He said a number of people were affected as such, others have overstayed and some had their permits expiring and would want to travel back home, but fear being penalised by immigration authorities at the ports of entry.

He said Zimbabweans in South Africa were optimistic that cross border traders will officially resume transportation of goods and remittances to Zimbabwe as a number of people depend on them.

“It is our hope that cross border transporters (omalayitsha) will now resume transportation of goods and remittances to alleviate the food and upkeep situation of families back in Zimbabwe. It is hope that those who make regular visits to see their families shall now be able to do so,” he said.

Mr Mkwanannzi also urged Zimbabwean citizens who have expiring or expired passports to use this time to courier they forms to the registry offices back in Zimbabwe.

“We take this opportunity to announce that we are in the process and discussions with the Consulate to complete the entire application process and submission of forms, payment and collection of passports from the Consulate. Many people are struggling to book appointments and find the system is fully booked. The Consulate has confirmed that the system works, but due to Covid-19 restrictions they can only take a maximum of 75 clients per day at this point,” said Mr Mkhwananzi.