Zimbabwean Exemption Permit saga latest: South African High Court delivers ruling


The Department of Home Affairs in South Africa has been ordered by the High Court in Johannesburg to withdraw their decision to summarily withdraw the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit.

The court found the decision to be unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid, and has ordered the department to conduct a proper public participation process as required by law.

The permit holders will now have an additional 12 months to remain in South Africa without fear of reprisal or arrest.

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The court found that the department had not followed the requirements of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, which states that administrators owe a duty of fairness to the public at large, including holding public hearings or obtaining written comments. The court said that the department showed a “notable disdain for the value of public participation”, and that the views of civil society and the public were deemed unnecessary.

The Zimbabwean Exemption Permit was first introduced in 2009 and was extended several times by Home Affairs. The department decided to terminate the permit regime in September 2021, just a month before the expiry of the latest permits, and without giving permit holders or civil society groups an opportunity to give input to the decision.

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The court has ordered that the permit holders should continue to have the protection of the permits for 12 months while the department conducts a “fair process”, and that the Home Affairs Minister should make a revised decision that properly considers public inputs, in line with the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act. The department has also been ordered to pay the legal fees in the case.

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