- An urgent application brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation to protect the rights of ZEP holders was dismissed.
- The court said the application was not needed and confirmed the validity of the ZEPs until at least June 2024.
- However, the court said the minister’s powers to cancel the programme had only been set aside temporarily.
An urgent application brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) to protect the rights of Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders was dismissed by the Pretoria High Court on Tuesday because the judges said there was no need in law for it, according to GroundUp.
Judges Colleen Collis, Gcina Malindi and Mandlenkosi Motha said their previous ruling in June this year, which gave 178 000 ZEP holders protection for 12 months, while the minister of home affairs conducted a fair and rational inquiry into the impact of any termination of the programme, remained operative in spite of attempts by the minister to appeal it.
The judges said the foundation and its co-applicant, the Consortium for Refugee and Migrants in South Africa (Cormsa), were asking in their urgent application for “what they already have by operation of law”.
The HSF sought an “enforcement order” after the minister indicated he was intent on appealing the June ruling by petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) after he failed to get leave to appeal from the Pretoria court.
Read the judgment here.
The HSF believed that this meant the judgment would be automatically suspended, which would put ZEP holders at risk of deportation while the appeal process played out with the permits set to expire in December 2023.
The urgent court action came after the minister twice refused to abide by the court’s ruling, pending appeal, the HSF said.
The minister, in his application for leave to appeal and in the urgent application, has flip-flopped as to whether the June ruling was “temporary” or final.
This matters because a temporary ruling is not automatically suspended on appeal.
The three judges said their June judgment was not a final order, and its aim was to preserve the status quo.
The judgement reads:
“For this reason, it is found that the minister’s contention that the interim order has the effect of a final judgment is rejected.”
The judges declined to grant a declarator – that the ZEP programme remains intact until all appeals are exhausted – because, they said, it would be the third time that it would be making such a declaration, having made it clear in the June judgment and in dismissing the minister’s application for leave to appeal to the SCA.
“The minister’s stance is to obey the court orders while he proceeds with his appeals,” they said.
“There is no need for a duplication of this protection,” they said, dismissing the application and making no order as to costs.
In a statement, the HSF said it welcomed the court’s confirmation of the validity of the ZEPs and the protections afforded to permit holders until at least June 2024.
However, the minister has put a different spin on the ruling.
In a statement, he said, “In essence, HSF and Cormsa sought the judgment whereby the court will issue an order to compel the department to implement the adverse judgment regardless of any subsequent appeal by the minister in any court.
“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.”