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THE South African government has announced that foreign students graduating from its universities in critical skills areas now qualify for permanent and long term work permits so that their talents can be retained.
Several Zimbabwean students including those under the Presidential Scholarship are studying at various universities in the neighbouring country.
Home Affairs Minister Mr Malusi Gigaba made the remarks during an address at the International Students Conference in Cape Town recently.
“International students are particularly important to countries because, having obtained your qualifications here or at least your most recent qualification, this brain waste can be avoided. It is for these reasons that the National Development Plan recommended a long term work visa be offered to international students upon graduation. Accordingly, I directed officials in the Department of Home Affairs to recommend options to make it easier for international students in critical skills areas to remain in South Africa after graduating,” he said.
Mr Gigaba said the move was not aimed at encouraging graduates to abandon their countries.
“It is important to note that we are in no way encouraging you to abandon your home countries, particularly those of you with bursaries from your governments or other organisations. We are merely acknowledging that it is natural for international students to want to remain in their destination countries for a period of time, to follow their academic studies with other experience,” he said.
“We are aware that many of you naturally want to work for a few years in South Africa, before returning home. Some of you will want to start businesses, some of you will want to study further, conduct research and produce knowledge, and some of you will want to stay in South Africa long term. Some of you will not, and will want to return home immediately after graduation.”
The Minister said the exemption was important for international students as well as South Africa as a country.
“We have therefore created a special exemption such that graduates of South African universities in critical skills areas are eligible for permanent residence immediately upon graduation.
He said South Africa has a long and proud history of educating leaders from throughout Southern Africa among them President Mugabe who studied at the University of Fort Hare.
“I think it is important we consider the wider importance of international students in South Africa. The University of Fort Hare counts as its alumni eminent Africans such as President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Seretse Khama, Botswana’s first leader, Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia among many others,” said Mr Gigaba.
He challenged students to contribute to Pan-Africanist and internationalist culture, spirit and outlook as the African continent.
“You must help both to change and deepen the discourse about Africa in an environment where in this world in which we live only negative narratives are being churned out.
“The diversity of knowledge, experience and perspective that you bring, enhances the richness of our universities as centres of thought, discourse and cross-pollination,” he said.
South Africa, in August 2014 introduced the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) allowing Zimbabwean holders of the special permit to work, to conduct business or study in South Africa for three years.
The programme replaced Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project (DZP) which ran from May 2009 to December 31, 2010.
The special permits are valid until December 31, 2017, after which all Zimbabweans who intend to extend their stay in the neighbouring country would be required to apply for visas using the normal route in terms of that country’s Immigration Act. By Mashudu Netsianda