ZEP extension brings 'temporary relief', but also raises some concerns

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Published Jun 29, 2023


The verdict of the North Gauteng High Court, which deemed Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's termination of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) illegal, unconstitutional, and invalid, has been positively received by organisations aiding and supporting Zimbabwean nationals.

The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), an organisation established by Zimbabwean political and economic refugees residing in South Africa, has expressed its approval of the court's ruling.

They anticipate that Motsoaledi will engage in discussions with pertinent parties to find a mutually agreeable solution moving forward.

Advocate Gabriel Shumba from the ZEF said that they welcomed the decision as evidence of the rule of law in SA and an indicator of the country's constitutionalism.

“We hope that this small group of people, who have given so much to the economy and have tried to comply with the laws, will not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness,” Shumba added.

Despite welcoming the judgment, the ZEP Coordinating Committee remains concerned as many questions remain unanswered.

Edward Muchatuta, National Coordinator at the ZEP Coordinating Committee, said that “it's just temporary relief from our challenges.”

While the judgment provides a grace period until mid-2024, some schoolchildren are still concerned. Employers have also begun to dismiss some ZEP holders due to uncertainty.

Additionally, Muchatuta noted that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the ZEP Coordinating Committee discovered during outreach programmes on repartition that none of the ZEP holders were interested in returning to Zimbabwe due to the country's current situation, which has gotten worse since 2010 when the South African government first offered these permits to Zimbabweans who were primarily asylum seekers.

“Our main hope is pinned on hearing from the Minister of Home Affairs on the way forward. At the moment we are mobilising our members for a possible consultation by Home Affairs and trying to put in place long-term plans including repatriations, when all else fails,” said Machatuta.

Shumba, who also called for open and meaningful dialogue, acknowledged other organisations that have defended the rights of the most vulnerable in society, including the Helen Suzman Foundation.

“Democracy is also measured by how society treats its minorities and the underprivileged,” said Shumba.

Motsoaledi has instructed his legal representatives to launch an application for leave to appeal the judgment.