Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

Home Affairs ordered not to arrest, deport Zimbabweans without permits

Home Affairs' decision to terminate ZEP has been set aside.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and his department have dealt a blow over its case relating to the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) has successfully interdicted the Department of Home Affairs from arresting, deporting and detaining any person who doesn’t possess a valid ZEP.

The Pretoria High Court delivered its judgment on Wednesday, after arguments in the matter were heard in April.

ZEP to remain valid

In its ruling, the high court has also declared the government’s November 2021 decision to grant a limited extension for the ZEP holders as unconstitutional and invalid.

It was found that the process was unfair in that Motsoaledi failed to consult ZEP holders.

The decision was, therefore, set aside by the court and as a result, the minister has been directed to reconsider the matter.

In addition, the court directed that ZEP shall remain valid for the next 12 months and further ruled that Home Affairs must allow holders to enter or depart from South Africa provided that they meet immigration requirements and have a valid passport.

ALSO READ: Home affairs decision ‘makes you wonder what SA really owes Zimbabwe’

Zimbabweans without the permit must not be arrested or deported during this period.

The department and other parties, who opposed the application, were ordered to pay the costs of the applicants – including the costs of two counsel.

Alongside the HSF, organisations such as ZEP Holders Association (Zepha), the Zimbabwe Immigration Federation and the All Truck Drivers Forum and Allied South Africa (ATDFASA) also took Motsoaledi to court in a bid to overturn the decision to scrap the special permits.

They argued that government’s decision to renew the ZEP will result in holders being undocumented due to the difficulty of obtaining alternative permits that would allow them to continue living and working in South Africa.

ZEP extension

Earlier this month, Motsoaledi extended the ZEP deadline by six months to 31 December, citing a wave of visa and waiver applications from affected Zimbabwean nationals.

The initial deadline was 30 June.

According to the minister, the decision was taken to give the ZEP holders an opportunity to apply for one or other visas provided for in the Immigration Act, which they may qualify for.

Various organisations – including controversial Operation Dudula – have since accused Motsoaledi of failing to protect South Africans, saying the minister has “sold out” South Africans.

The ZEP has allowed tens of thousands of Zimbabweans to live, work and study in South Africa since 2009 as part of the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP).

About 295 000 Zimbabweans applied and about 245 000 permits were issued at the time.

NOW READ: RFA concerned ZEP extension will further infuriate local truck drivers