THE ruling by South African courts against the termination of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs) is a victory for Zimbabweans staying legally in the neighbouring country and a setback for the host country’s Home Affairs department.
The High Court on Wednesday ruled the decision by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi as “unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.”
The court ruled in favour of the Helen Suzman Foundation that holders of the permits first introduced in 2009 were not consulted prior to the termination of the permits at the end of 2021.
The ruling on Wednesday means the permits are valid for another 12 months. South Africa thus cannot arrest, detain or deport holders of the permits, who number more than 178 000.
Thousands of Zimbabweans fled economic and political problems and moved to South Africa.
The decision by Home Affairs to terminate the permits has been a source of tension between Motsoaledi on one side and human rights groups and permit holders on the other.
Home Affairs, an incapacitated department, has failed to meet set deadlines and, on several occasions, extended the validity of permits by six months after failing to cope with applications by Zimbabweans to move to alternative visas.
The latest extension was earlier this month.
Zimbabweans panicking at the possibility of arrest and deportation have been applying in numbers on a system that is clogged and ineffective.
It could not be ascertained what the way forward is for thousands of Zimbabweans that had each paid at least R1 5550 (about US$83) to apply for waivers, which would have paved the way for applications for new permits.
Those that had paid but missed their appointments because of congestion at VFH centres or failed to travel long distances to such centres outside the areas they stayed paid at least R500 to be attended to at so-called premium lounges.
Motsoaledi’s office responded in a brief statement.
“The Minister of Home Affairs is aware of the two full-court judgements issued by the High Court, Gauteng Division, Pretoria, delivered today, 28 June 2023,” it stated.
“The Minister is still studying the two judgements and taking legal advice on them. He will, in due course, respond fully to them. In the ensuing communication, he will outline further steps that will be taken, including appeals (if any).”
South Africa is bearing the brunt of the crises in neighbouring Zimbabwe. There is a rising anti-Zimbabwean sentiment as South Africa struggles to provide jobs and services to its nationals.
A mob beat and burnt to death a Zimbabwean man, Elvis Nyathi (43), in the restive Diepsloot during xenophobic violence in 2022.
Problems are forecast to mount as Zimbabwe heads to what looks likely to be a disputed election.
– CAJ News