ZEP Rescued: Court victory for Zimbabweans who were facing imminent boot from South Africa

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The Pretoria High Court in South Africa has declared the termination of Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs) by the country’s Department of Home Affairs as “unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid”. The court has directed the Minister of Home Affairs to reconsider the issue “following a fair process”.

The Helen Suzman Foundation had successfully applied to interdict the Department of Home Affairs from arresting, deporting and detaining any person who does not have a valid ZEP. Over 178,000 Zimbabweans hold the ZEP, which had been due to expire on June 30, 2023.

Pending the outcome of the reconsideration process, the permits will now remain valid until the end of June 2024, and holders will be protected from arrest and deportation. The decision to terminate the ZEP programme had been taken without any prior notice or consultation with ZEP holders and the public, placing them in jeopardy and holding profound consequences.

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It was announced that the permit holders should migrate to mainstream permits, and those who failed to do so should depart by June 30, 2023. However, the Home Affairs Ministry extended the grace period to December 31, 2023.

The ruling is a relief to many Zimbabweans who were anxious about their fate after June 30, and it gives migrants enough time to put their documents in order with less pressure.

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