The South African government has castigated some Zimbabwean groups, which it says are “trying every trick in the book” to reverse a decision taken recently by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cabinet to discontinue the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) program.
In a statement posted on its website, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said, “Late on Friday, 24 December 2021 (Christmas Eve) two organisations claiming to be representing the interests of ZEP holders, one calling itself African Amity, launched urgent applications in the High Court, Gauteng Division, Pretoria. The other group is led by a Bongani Nyathi, Gaston Ngulube and Njabulo Ncube.
“At the heart of the dispute is the decision taken by the Minister of Home Affairs not to renew the ZEP and impose a condition giving a 12-month grace period during which time ZEP holders need to regularise their stay through normal immigration laws of the country. The Minister took the decision as he is empowered to do so in terms of the relevant provisions of the Immigration Act, 2002.”
In the statement, the South African government further notes that “the relief sought by these two groups was basically to be granted permanent residency and that the Court should instruct the Department to issue ZEP holders with visas, pending the review of the Minister’s decision by the courts. The so-called urgent applications of these two groups were heard in Court yesterday (28 December 2021). The Minister and Department rigorously defended both applications and argued that the applicants in both matters failed to comply with the practice manual and directives and lack of urgency.
“The Court ruled in favour of the Minister and removed the African Amity’s matter from the roll. Costs were reserved. The Minister and Department intend to insist on punitive costs against African Amity.
In the matter of Bongani Nyathi, Gaston Ngulube and Njabulo Ncube, the Court ordered the applicants to pay the Minister and Department’s costs.”
Motsoaledi is quoted in the statement as saying, "We are determined to defend any spurious court actions aimed at undermining the lawful and reasonable decision which I took in my capacity as the Minister of the Department. We are doing this while we acknowledge the rights of individuals and groups to approach the Courts to seek remedies if they feel aggrieved.”
“It is common cause that there are many other groupings who are poised to take on review the decision on ZEP in the courts of law in the New Year. And as a result, the Department will defend the lawful, rational and reasonable decision taken in my capacity as the Minister of the Department” said Motsoaledi.
There are almost 178,000 holders of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits, who have been given 12 months to regularize their status or face deportation.
Some Zimbabwean groups have strongly criticized those taking the matter to court, arguing that the South African government made a political decision to issue the exemption permits and therefore it does not make sense to hire attorneys to settle the matter.