SA Home Affairs Minister's Decision On ZEP Does Not Take Away Their Rights - Lawyers5 months ago
Lawyers representing South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Wednesday said no rights will be taken away when the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) system comes to an end in June, reported GroundUp.
The Pretoria High Court is hearing an application by the Helen Suzman Foundation and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa to have the minister set aside the decision.
They are seeking the setting aside of the minister’s decision to terminate the ZEP system on 30 June 2023.
Advocate Ismail Jamie, counsel for the Minister of Home Affairs, told a full bench of the Pretoria High Court that there was no decision to terminate the ZEP system.
Rather, ZEP holders were given until June 2023 to regularise their stay in South Africa by applying for other visas or asking to be exempt from the expiration of the ZEP.
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Jamie said rights that were temporarily conferred in the first place had been allowed to lapse through the passage of time. He said:
Just as the government was free to adopt (a visa exemption) policy in respect of Zimbabweans as it relates to the conditions prevailing in that country in 2008 and 2009, it is free to change that policy in 2023.
Jamie said that consultation with ZEP holders will take place when ZEP holders apply for alternative visas or waivers.
Advocate Steven Budlender, for the Helen Suzman Foundation, argued that there was no consultation with affected parties either before or after the decision to terminate the ZEP system.
Jamie argued that it would be impractical to expect the government to have consulted 178 000 ZEP holders.
Budlender said Motsoaledi’s claim that it was impractical to get the opinions of 178 000 people as to how it would impact them was irrational, as this was standard procedure whenever legislation or policy is proposed by the government.
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 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.
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