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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

Motsoaledi grants 178 000 Zimbabweans, 54 653 Basotho two-year exemption permits

They are, however, not eligible to apply for permanent residency based on the permit.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has granted 178 000 Zimbabwean nationals and 54 653 Lesotho nationals exemptions permits for another two years.

The permits for Lesotho nationals were expected to expire on 31 December 2023, while Zimbabwean Exemption Permits had two expiry dates of 31 December 2023 and 28 June 2024, as decided by the courts.

In October, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed, with costs, Motsoaledi’s application for leave to appeal a 28 June ruling on his decision to terminate the ZEP programme.

The high court had ruled against Motsoaledi’s failure to consult with ZEP holders and other interested parties, and declared his November 2021 decision “unlawful and unconstitutional”.

The court also ordered the ZEP to remain valid until June 2024 for the conclusion of a fair public participation process.

ALSO READ: Motsoaledi ‘still studying judgment’ after ZEP appeal court loss

“The application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal has already been launched,” said Motsoaledi.

“The parties are still in the process of extending the necessary court papers. The SCA outcome is unknown at this stage,” he said.

Motsoaledi extends exemptions

The Home Affairs minister granted Lesotho nationals with exemptions eight years ago under certain terms and conditions.

“The decision was taken due to prevailing circumstances at the time, including easing the burden on the asylum system and the fact that most of the affected Lesotho nationals were in reality economic migrants.

54 653 Lesotho nationals were granted these exemptions and set to expire on 31 December 2023.

ALSO READ: ‘No legitimate purpose to continue ZEP’, Home Affairs argues in court

Now the department has decided to afford the two groups the “same treatment” by extending their exemption period.

“We’re also considering the Home Affairs budgetary constraints and affected Zimbabwean and Lesotho nationals continue to study, work and conduct business in South Africa. They also need to avoid unfair and differential treatment of the same category foreigners in similar circumstances,” he said.

The affected Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals will be entitled to apply for new exemptions permits under the following terms:

  • Entitled to work, seek employment and conduct business in South Africa during the period of validity
  • Entitled to apply for a new permit
  • Not entitled to apply for permanent residence irrespective of period of stay in South Africa
  • New permits will not be renewable
  • Will be allowed freedom of movement between Lesotho and South Africa or any other country
  • Cannot change their status in South Africa during validity of permit
  • When the permit is renewed in December, holder must disclose and register children and minors born and stay in South Africa

The new expiry date is 29 November 2025.

ALSO READ: ‘Motsoaledi has made up his mind’: ZEP non-renewal will affect many lives, court hears

“No holder of valid exemption permit may be arrested, ordered to depart or be detained for purposes of deportation or deported in terms of the section 34 of the Immigration Act for any reason related to him or her not having any valid exemption certificate,” said Motsoaledi.

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