The majority of the 178 000 Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders in South Africa are yet to make representations to say why their permits should not be terminated.
About 6 000 ZEP holders have made representations to SA’s Department of Home Affairs giving reasons why their permits should not be terminated at the end of this year.
This was revealed in court papers the department filed at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
In the court papers, Home Affairs director-general Livhuwani Tommy Makhode said that only 6 000 out of the 178 000 permit holders responded to the call by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi made in 2021 for Zimbabweans to state their case before their permits expired.
In June this year, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) said it would take the government to court for discontinuing the permits.
HSF said that the decision would turn ZEP holders in South Africa into undocumented migrants and force them to return home and face similar conditions to what led them to flee from their home country.
However, Makhode argued that the Home Affairs Minister had allowed ZEP holders to apply for visas as stipulated in the Immigration Act. He said:
This is clear from the fact that ZEP holders are entitled to and were invited to make representations as to why their ZEPs should not be terminated and/or why their ZEPs should be extended for a period longer than [the] 12-month extension granted by the minister.
… In the six-month period since the minister’s decision to extend the ZEPs for 12 months was announced, only 6 000 of the approximately 178 000 ZEP holders have taken the opportunity to make representations to the minister.
The ZEP is a special permit that was established more than 10 years ago, providing legal protection to an estimated 178 000 Zimbabweans who live, work and study in South Africa.
However, in January, the SA Cabinet announced that the arrangement should be terminated by December 2022.
ZEP holders have been encouraged to apply for a visa to remain in South Africa on the basis of a list of critical skills.