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Cape Town, South Africa – Thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa face an uncertain future and possible deportation before a June 2023 expiration of their work permits, following an announcement by the home government last year that there will be no extension.

*Matilda Tebogo (not her real name), a 35-year-old shopkeeper, says she is stressed and nervous about what lies ahead for her and her family. The Zimbabwean national has been living and working in Cape Town for more than 10 years under the Zimbabwe Extension Permit (ZEP) scheme.

Her two children are settled in school and South Africa is home for them, she told Al Jazeera.

“Everything is unclear and we don’t know what to do,” she said. “My children know nothing about Zimbabwe. It will be difficult to leave.”

She and thousands of others are beneficiaries of the Zimbabwean Extension Permit (ZEP) scheme instituted in 2017.

The Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association (ZEPHA) says the number of permit holders is about 160,000, but each person has an average of three to four dependents, effectively putting the numbers of those affected at an estimated figure of close to two million Zimbabweans.

What is ZEP?

Circa 2008, thousands of Zimbabweans migrated to South Africa in search of better opportunities due to economic woes in the country of their birth.

Thousands of supporters of the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, also said their lives were in danger for voting against Zimbabwe’s governing party ZANU-PF – which has been in power since independence in 1980 – and sought asylum in the country.

What have the reactions been so far?

What happens next?

This content was originally published here.