Zimbabwe Exemption Permit
Advocate Steven Budlender, who is representing the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) in the Pretoria High Court, has argued that the decision by South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) was irrational and procedurally unfair.
HSF is seeking a declaration that the Minister’s decision is unconstitutional, unlawful, and invalid and that it be set aside as well as a temporary order directing that, reported SABC News.
Budlender on Tuesday argued that Motsoaledi should reconsider the decision to terminate the ZEP, following the proper process. He said:
As we argue in our heads and in what follows, procedural rationality under the principle of legality required that ZEP holders and the public be afforded a hearing.
The foundation also argued that the decision was taken without the minister considering the impact it would have on the lives of ZEP holders, their children, and the broader public.
The inevitable effect of the minister’s decision is that, on 30 June 2023, tens of thousands of ZEP holders will be left undocumented.
This is due to the legal and practical barriers to securing alternative visas and permits.
… My client does not suggest and does not ask this court to find that the Minister may never terminate the ZEP programme.
That is not my client’s case and that is not the submission I make, but my client does say and I do submit that because any termination has such profound consequences in order to be valid, it must firstly, follow a fair and procedurally rational consultation process.
Secondly, be consistent with fundamental constitutional rights enshrined in our constitution and thirdly, be based on lawful, rational and reasonable grounds.
The application by the Helen Suzman Foundation has been opposed.
Around 2008, thousands of Zimbabweans crossed the border into South Africa seeking better economic opportunities after the Zimbabwean economy had virtually collapsed.
South Africa then introduced the Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) to legalise Zimbabweans living and working in the country in 2009.
In 2014, the DZP was renamed to the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP). The name changed again three years later to Zimbabwe Exemption Permit or ZEP.
In September 2022, South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs extended the permit which was due to expire on December 31, for a further six months to June 30, 2023.
South Africa allowed ZEP holders with critical skills to apply for visas to remain in the country.
According to the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association (ZEPHA), the number of permit holders is about 160 000, but each person has an average of three to four dependents.
This means that close to one million Zimbabweans will be negatively affected by South Africa’s decision to discontinue the ZEP scheme.