HARARE – Zimbabwean nationals living and working in South Africa have received a reprieve from the Department of Home Affairs, which announced on Wednesday that their exemption permits will be valid until 31 December 2023.
The decision affects about 180,000 people who were facing deportation if they could not find alternative legal ways to stay in the country.
The exemption permits, known as Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP), were initially set to expire in December 2021, but the government granted a 12-month grace period until December 2022. This was then extended to June 2023 and now to the end of 2023.
The extension comes amid ongoing court action by several organisations, including the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association (ZEPHA), the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), and the Zimbabwe Immigration Federation, who are challenging the government’s decision to scrap the ZEP. The Pretoria High Court reserved judgment on the matter in April.
Home Affairs stated that the minister had taken into account various factors, including submissions from affected Zimbabweans, officials and other interested parties, and had approved “thousands of waiver applications” from them.
The minister also issued a directive stating that no holder of a valid exemption permit may be arrested, ordered to depart, detained or deported for not having a valid permit label or sticker in their passport. The directive also states that no holder of an exemption permit should be required to produce a valid permit or an authorisation letter when applying for any category of visas, including temporary residence