South Africa’s Home Affairs Department is facing another lawsuit relating to the looming termination of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).
The ZEP is a special dispensation permit established more than 10 years ago that gives legal protection to an estimated 178 000 Zimbabwean nationals to live, work and study in South Africa.
However, the Cabinet decided in January 2022 that the arrangement must be terminated by December and that applicants should apply for a visa to remain in South Africa, based on a list of critical skills needed in the country.
In June, the Helen Suzman Foundation said it would be taking the government to court for discontinuing the permits.
Now, another organisation – the Zimbabwean Immigration Federation (ZIF) – is also taking the department to court, News24 reports.
In its papers filed at the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, ZIF cited the Department of Home Affairs, President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African Police Service, the South African National Defence Force, and the Border Management Authority.
Why is ZIF pushing this?
i). The application was aimed at preventing government departments from arresting or deporting ZEP holders once their permits expired at the end of the year.
ii). The organisation also wanted ZEP holders to be able to leave or enter the country legally if all their other travel documentation was in order.
iii). The ZIF wanted home affairs to review the decision not to extend the ZEP.
iv). The organisation also wanted the department to restart the review process for permits and, in the meantime, allow ZEP holders to remain in the country.
ZIF contends that:
1). The Department of Home Affairs has not taken the necessary steps to handle numerous applications by ZEP holders that will be lodged under the Refugees Act.
2). Members of the ZIF were victims of the Gukurahundi massacre who had been left homeless.
3). They were also worried that members of the LGBTQI community would face discrimination in Zimbabwe.
4). Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi erred in his decision to end the permits because he “failed to take into account relevant considerations in making the impugned decision”.
5). Motsoaledi’s approach to the withdrawal of the exemptions is reminiscent of the brutal international migration policy adopted by the Apartheid regime. They imposed harsh immigration controls and tight restrictions on Africans it considered undesirable.
6). ZEP termination would also lead to families being torn apart as most ZIF members didn’t qualify for alternative visas under the critical skills category.
7). Permit holders were also likely to lose their businesses and property, the court papers stated.
Home affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza said the department’s lawyers had filed a motion to oppose the ZIF court action.