SA Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi
Top Stories

SA denies Zim permit plan will lead to ‘catastrophe’

SOUTH Africa Department of Home Affairs has rejected claims that Zimbabweans in possession of expired Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) will be deported once their travel documents expire on December 31.

This is contained in an affidavit by the department’s director-general Tommy Makhode deposed last week at the Pretoria High Court challenging the Helen Suzman Foundation and Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa.

“I deny that ZEP holders would be stripped of their existing rights, arrested, detained, and deported even if this court were to refuse an application for leave to appeal,” said Makhode in an answering affidavit for application for interim enforcement.

His argument is based on Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi having previously granted ZEP extensions three times since 2021, with the latest extension expiring in December. “Given this history of the extensions, it is inconceivable that the minister’s mind is shut to possible future extension(s).”

He was responding to the foundation’s founding affidavit: application for interim enforcement filed three weeks ago, arguing that Motsoaledi’s previous extensions did not reverse his decision to terminate the ZEP programme.

“The announcement issued (by Motsoaledi) with that directive also made it clear that there will be no further extensions,” said the foundation’s executive director Nicole Fritz. Makhode, however, refuted Fritz’s claim.

“The HSF and in particular the deponent to the founding affidavit are challenged to provide proof… that there will be no further extensions. These allegations are false and are meant to mislead the court.” Makhode refuted claims there would be a human catastrophe as stated by the foundation in its court papers.

“The essence of the HSF application is to have ZEP holders accorded permanent residency in the country through the back door without any challenge to the Immigration Act and regulations,” he said. He also denied the foundation’s claim that there would be catastrophe if ZEPs were not renewed.

“If any , it is imaginary… It is tantamount to instilling fear in the minds of the affected Zimbabwean nationals…,” said Makhode. He said the department has received almost 75 000 waiver applications and those applicants were not facing deportation or arrest risks. Makhode also said the foundation’s statement that Motsoaledi has refused all future extensions of the ZEPs was factually inaccurate, saying he has extended the validity of ZEPs on three occasions since 2021. “Given this history of the extensions, it is inconceivable that the minister’s mind is shut to possible future extensions,” he said.

The court ruled in June that Motsoaledi’s decision to terminate the ZEP, to grant a limited extension of the ZEP of only 12 months and to refuse further extensions beyond June 30 – as communicated in a public notice to Zimbabweans on January 5 2022 – was unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

The case was brought by the foundation as well as the consortium on behalf of 178 000 ZEP holders. Makhode added that the ZEPs were issued with an express condition that holders were not eligible for per[1]manent residence, irrespective of their length of stay in South Africa.

“As to the livelihoods that have been nurtured and developed over many years: ZEP holders were at all times aware that the ZEP programme was temporary. It was made clear at all relevant times to those who applied for exemptions that the exemption regime for qualifying Zimbabwean citizens was never meant to be permanent. “All ZEP holders were forewarned that the regime would come to an end at some point in the future,” said Makhode. — SowetanLIVE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *