By Staff Reporter
South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs is facing legal challenges over its decision to end the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) programme, leaving tens of thousands of Zimbabwean nationals without proper documentation.
The ZEP was introduced in 2017 to allow Zimbabweans living in South Africa to regularise their stay for a period of four years, which was renewable. However, the programme is set to end on June 30, 2023, and the government has not announced any plans to renew it.
Advocate Steven Budlender, representing the who is representing the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) in the Pretoria High Court argued that the decision to end the ZEP programme was taken without due consideration for the impact it would have on the lives of Zimbabwean Exemption Permit holders, their children, and the broader public.
“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,” said Budlender.
He added that ending the programme would leave tens of thousands of ZEP holders undocumented, due to the legal and practical barriers they would face in 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,” said Budlender.
He added “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.”
Budlender argued that procedural rationality under the principle of legality required that ZEP holders and the public be afforded a hearing.
The outcome of the case could have significant implications for the tens of thousands of Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa, who may face the prospect of being left undocumented if the ZEP programme is not renewed.