South African High Court Rules Termination of ZEP Permits as Unlawful, Invalid

Phillipa Jaja

According to South African media, Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders have been given a year’s reprieve and protection from arrest and deportation following a High Court ruling in their favour today.

The High Court today declared “unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid” the decision by South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).

Three judges, sitting as a full bench in the Pretoria High Court, directed the minister to reconsider the issue “following a fair process” that complies with the relevant laws.

The case was brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa after the minister announced the end of the programme in 2021.

Judges Colleen Collis, Gcina Malindi and Mandlenkosi Motha poked holes in the ruling today which exposed the Minister’s lack of due diligence in dealing with the issue.

The judges noted that the Minister’s actions were devoid of empathy illustrated by a victim’s distress calls for extension.

“A ZEP-holder, Ms Maliwa, sent an email to the designated address imploring the Minister to ‘Please consider giving us another four years. We have nowhere to stay in Zim and no work.’

“To this email the minister’s attorneys responded that … the minister is unable to reverse the decision.”

The judges again condemned the minister’s failure to consult saying it had undermined the impact it made on the lives of the affected 178,000 permit holders and their children.

“As a decision of this consequence impacts over 178,000 permit holders, it would have required proper information on who would be affected, to what degree and what measures were in place to ameliorate this impact.

“It further requires a careful assessment of the current conditions in Zimbabwe.

“Before this court, there is simply no admissible evidence from the Minister on whether he took these considerations into account and how.”
This was borne out by the fact that the director-general and the minister had been “entirely silent” on the impact on families and children in the court papers and in press statements.

The minister had also “flatly refused” to engage with any representations from the Scalabrini Centre, saying “there is no scope for reconsideration”.

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