Zimbabwe central bank

Zimbabwe’s central bank launched a “structured currency” backed by gold as it seeks to tackle inflation and stabilise the country’s economy. Picture: File/Fotor.

Ruling finds Zimbabwean Exemption Permits don’t need protecting

An urgent application to protect the rights of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits in South Africa has been dismissed by the Pretoria High Court.

Zimbabwe central bank

Zimbabwe’s central bank launched a “structured currency” backed by gold as it seeks to tackle inflation and stabilise the country’s economy. Picture: File/Fotor.

If there was any confusion over the rights of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits in South Africa, the actions of the Pretoria High Court have not exactly allayed fears.

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Following a landmark ruling and repeated court procedures since September 2021, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) felt the need to approach the Pretoria High Court again to reinforce the rights of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits.


ZEP holders challenge government decision in High Court
Judge Colleen Collis of the Pretoria High Court has ruled in favour of Zimbabwe Exemption Permits. Image: GroundUp.

This action, according to GroundUp, was dismissed earlier this week because the court found there was no need for it. Judges Collis, Malindi and Motha of the High Court said their previous ruling in June, protected the rights of 178 000 ZEP holders from the Department of Home Affairs.

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As we reported earlier this year, back in June 2023, the High Court overturned the controversial decision of the Home Affairs Minister to terminate ZEPs. Then, like now, it was the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA) which successfully challenged the ZEP termination ruling.

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The ruling granted protection for 12 months while the Minister of Home Affairs conducted a fair and rational inquiry into Zimbabwean Exemption Permits. This time, court action sought an enforcement order against the minister who had indicated intent to appeal the ruling.


Zimbabwean Ambassador Hamadziripi and Consul General Melody Chaurura addressed the media on the return from South Africa of Zimbabwe Exemption Permit holders. Photo: Kimberly Mutandiro via Groundup.

The Helen Suzman Foundation wants to protect ZEP holders with expiring permits while any appeal process plays out. Ultimately the confusion comes down to whether the June 2023 ruling was indeed temporary or final.

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Accordingly, the three judges said their June 2023 judgment was not a final order and its aim was to merely preserve the status quo. “The rights of the ZEP holders as stated in the order are not definitive, in that they are subject to the determination by the minister and may be altered when the minister has conducted a fair hearing.”


Zimbabwean Exemption Permits
Zimbabwean Exemption Permits will stay valid till June 2024 at least. Picture: File.

In a statement, the Helen Suzman Foundation welcomed the court’s confirmation of protection till at least June 2024. However, the minister has put a different spin on proceedings. “This judgment must serve as a wake-up call to the affected Zimbabwean nationals to follow the procedures outlined by the minister to regularise their stay in the Republic and forget about false promises,” said the minister.

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Practically, this means any Zimbabwean Exemption Permits stay valid until 30 June 2024. ZEP holders may freely travel to and from South Africa and may not be arrested or deported on the basis of holding an expired permit.

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What are your thoughts on Zimbabwean Exemption Permits in SA? Be sure to share with our audience in the comments section below. And don’t forget to follow us @TheSANews on X and The South African on Facebook for the latest updates.

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This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as immigration or legal advice. For detailed advice on individual cases, we recommend getting in touch with Lawyers for Human Rights. You can call their immigration hotline on 0800 079 614 or WhatsApp them on +27 817 168791.