Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi has lashed out at the Helen Suzman Foundation for instituting a court action against the department.
The minister's open letter comes after the foundation had on June 15 launched legal action to challenge Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).
The ZEP, which ended on December 31, will not be extended. This decision by the minister was said to have the backing of the Cabinet when in November 2021, Cabinet members made the decision not to renew the ZEP. However, the foundation and many others have since blamed the minister of xenophobia with civil rights groups arguing that it would be impossible for current permit holders to successfully apply for other permits.
Zimbabweans living in South Africa have in recent weeks raised concerns on social media as well as other formal platforms, including approaching the court on an urgent basis. Their efforts have since been unsuccessful, with the HSF saying migrants who were in South Africa unlawfully should be entitled to remain, and even that the ZEP must continue in perpetuity, the foundation said.
“Rather, our position is that those who have scrupulously observed South Africa's laws in order to live and work here, under the ZEP, cannot have such permits terminated without fair process, good reason and a meaningful opportunity to regularise their status. It is what our constitutional order demands,“ the foundation said in a recent statement.
However, on Tuesday, the minister said in an open and transparent democracy, organs of civil society had an important role to play but they should not feel entitled to have their own way, adding that in most cases they should do so in the national interest.
“However, at times, some of them can be a stumbling block in the implementation of Government’s rational and lawful decisions, which are in the national interest. The recent surprising court action launched by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) is a perfect example of the destructive role that some non-governmental organisations (NGO) are capable of," said the minister in a statement.
Motsoaledi said he as the minister had always engaged the HSF regarding some of the challenges faced by the Department in the past and on several occasion raised matters regarding these challenges.
“Since the announcement of the decision of the minister not to extend the exemption granted to Zimbabwean nationals, he has engaged with several members of civil society with a view to manage the consequences of his decision collectively. This time around, the HSF was conspicuous by its silence. Little did the minister know that the HSF was behind the scenes planning the so called ‘public interest’ court action,” the minister further stated.
The minister said there was a growing trend by civil society to engage on matters of national interests in a way that sabotaged relationships and discussions which he did not welcome as it bordered on dictatorship.
“There’s a disturbing and growing trend by some NGOs to sabotage the polycentric and policy-laden decisions taken by Government by using the courts. This development must be nipped in the bud as soon as possible. South Africa is now under the dictatorship of some of the NGOs, with some having faceless and dubious funders. Their ultimate aim is to assist in the dislodgement of government of the day from power by all means available,” he said.