The South African Government has condemned some groups of Zimbabwean nationals living and working in that country for challenging its recent decision to discontinue the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) programme.
The High Court of Pretoria has reportedly struck off the roll of urgent matters two applications made by Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) holders in South Africa.
Some ZEP holders made urgent court applications to overturn the decision taken by SA’s Department of Home Affairs not to renew the permits which expire on 31 December 2021 (today).
In November, the SA cabinet resolved not to renew the permits and gave the permit holders a 12-month grace period that expires in December next year to regularise their stay in the neighbouring country or face deportation.
In a statement posted on the Department of Home Affairs website, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said:
Late on Friday, 24 December 2021 (Christmas Eve) two organisations claiming to be representing the interests of ZEP holders, one calling itself African Amity, launched urgent applications in the High Court, Gauteng Division, Pretoria. The other group is led by a Bongani Nyathi, Gaston Ngulube and Njabulo Ncube.
At the heart of the dispute is the decision taken by the Minister of Home Affairs not to renew the ZEP and impose a condition giving a 12-month grace period during which time ZEP holders need to regularise their stay through normal immigration laws of the country.
The Minister took the decision as he is empowered to do so in terms of the relevant provisions of the Immigration Act, 2002.
The minister and department rigorously defended both applications and argued that the applicants in both matters failed to comply with the practice manual and directives and lack of urgency.
The court ruled in favour of the minister and removed the African Amity’s matter from the roll. Costs were reserved. The minister and department intend to insist on punitive costs against African Amity.
In the matter of Bongani Nyathi, Gaston Ngulube and Njabulo Ncube, the court ordered the applicants to pay the minister and department’s costs.
We are determined to defend any spurious court actions aimed at undermining the lawful and reasonable decision which I took in my capacity as the minister of the department.
We are doing this while we acknowledge the rights of individuals and groups to approach the courts to seek remedies if they feel aggrieved.
It is common cause that there are many other groupings who are poised to take on review the decision on ZEP in the courts of law in the New Year.
And as a result, the department will defend the lawful, rational and reasonable decision taken in my capacity as the minister of the department.
There are almost 200 000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits, who have been directed to regularise their status or face deportation after 31 December 2022.