After the SA government’s decision not to extend the Zimbabwean exemption permit (ZEP) scheme, non-profit organisation Lawyers for Human Rights said legal action might be on the cards as part of their strategy to help ZEP holders.
Refugee and migrants’ rights programme manager Sharon Ekambaram said the decision would leave more than 180 000 Zimbabweans who hold the permit stranded with limited access to key services and facing possible deportation.
She said the department of home affairs had not offered ZEP holders a document showing they had a grace period of 12 months to migrate to other mainstream visas, which made the grace period useless in the eyes of immigration officers.
“We are expecting deportation because people from 1 January will have permits that expired on 31 December. Irrespective of the fact that the minister said they had a grace period, there is no paper they are holding that shows that even if your permit expired on the 31st it has been extended for a year.”
She said one of the biggest concerns was that children born and raised in SA could get deported with their parents although they were going to school here.
“It’s shocking that you’d have a system or documentation for 10 years and it’s a temporary system that you can just turn off, with no consideration that people have lived in this country for over 20 years and built their lives here,” she said.
ZEP Holders Association representative advocate Simba Chitando said the high court had not dismissed an urgent application regarding the ZEP, and the main case about ZEP holders’ rights to residency would be scheduled to be heard on the ordinary case roll.
“The case before the court was to assert the rights of ZEP holders during the grace period. The case was not considered because of various technical reasons.”