HOLDERS of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) in South Africa will now have their permits extended after the South African government yesterday dumped its earlier plans to desist from renewing the permits that expire on December 31.
South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs yesterday gave no reasons for the withdrawal of an earlier cabinet resolution made on November 25, announcing that the permits would not be renewed. Over 200 000 Zimbabweans in that country on the strength of those permits were ordered to apply for other visa regimes, and faced deportation back into the country if their visa applications were rejected.
Zimbabwean nationals who held the ZEP permits were offered a 12-month reprieve for the holders to regularise their status.
Yesterday, ZEP holders scored a major victory after the South African Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi issued a statement advising that the directive had been withdrawn.
The South African government was forced to withdraw the directive after lawyers representing the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders Association and others filed an urgent court application last week challenging the decision.
The case had been set for hearing today.
Speaking from Pretoria yesterday, advocate Simba Chitando, representing the ZEP holders, said Motsoaledi failed to file opposing papers, but issued the statement advising the withdrawal of the directive.
Motsoaledi, Home Affairs department director-general Livhuwani Tommy Makhode, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mondli Gungubele, ministers in the President’s Office were cited as respondents in the court application.
“I am happy to announce that the urgent application, set down for December 14, 2021, to challenge Immigration Directive 10 of 2021 has been successful. This afternoon, December 13, 2021, Minister of Home Affairs withdrew Immigration 10 of 2021, in its entirety. The directive was draconian, it was unreasonable, punitive and unfair.
“It forced ZEP holders to do the impossible and has rightly been withdrawn. This is a great victory for ZEP holders, their families and members of the South African community who call them family.”
The South African government also announced the withdrawal of its earlier directive on ZEP on its official Home Affairs department website.
Chitando also expressed hope that the South African government would provide ZEP holders with permanent residence permits.
The court application had sought that Motsoaledi and Makhode review and set aside, as well as declare as unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid, an immigration directive issued on November 29 this year.
It also sought that all companies, employers, learning institutions , banks and financial services providers must stop terminating relationships, services and contractual agreements with ZEP holders at the expiry of the their permits.
The lawyers wanted the court to make absolute its ruling against the directive, unless Motsoaledi and Makhode should show cause before January 4, 2022, why the order should not be made final.
Chitando also prayed to the court saying that the directive should be stayed until the case was determined, while the respondents and any other interested parties must pay the cost of the application.
ZEP holders, Darlington Chiuta and Emma Dimairho, also deposed affidavits in support of the urgent court application, citing among other issues difficulties with the directive, prima facie rights, reasonable apprehension of irreparable harm, and absence of alternative remedies among others.
The holders have also sued the South African government demanding that it gives the 180 000 special permit holders, some of whom have stayed in the neighbouring country for more than 10 years, permanent residence.
The case is still pending in the Pretoria High Court.
The Department of Home Affairs, subsequently issued Immigration Directive No 10 of 2021 on November 29 cementing the cabinet resolution with institutions including companies, banks and learning institutions ordered to let the Zimbabweans continue with their activities.