By The Citizen
SOUTH AFRICA: The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders Association says it will continue with its legal action despite Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi’s latest extension.
The Department of Home Affairs on Friday announced that the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) had been extended to 30 June 2023.
In a statement, the department explained that Motsoaledi made the decision in order to give the permit holders an opportunity to apply for one or other visas provided for in the Immigration Act they may qualify for.
The organisation’s representative and Zanu PF Sandton branch chairperson, advocate Simba Chitando said the extension was good news, however, he believed that there was “some funny business going on”.
“My initial view is to proceed with the legal case that we have against the minister and to up the pressure which some to be working,” he told SABC News on Friday.
Chitando pointed out that this was not the first time Motsoaledi had backtracked on a decision he made after he withdrew a directive last year.
Under the directive released on 29 November, companies, employers, learning institutions as well as banks, were instructed to discontinue services to those in possession of the ZEPs, unless the permit holders submitted proof of their application for a “mainstream” visa.
“He withdrew another directive in February [this year] and this is now fourth time. We are witnessing are a minister that has been backtracking since December and it has become apparent that the decision cannot be complied with.
“My initial reaction was that he is trying to avoid [going to] court on the 6th and 7th,” the advocate continued to say.
Chitando further said he would consult with organisations taking legal action regarding the ZEP issue.
In their court case, the ZEP Holders’ Association is seeking to overturn the decision not to renew the permit and also wants Zimbabweans to be declared permanent South African residents.
Motsoaledi, Home Affairs director-general, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his Cabinet are the respondents in the case.
The organisation’s previous application with the non-profit organisation, African Amity had been struck off the roll by the Johannesburg High Court in December 2021.
According to News24, African Amity has since decided to withdraw from the case.
Meanwhile, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) is also challenging the government’s decision to end the ZEPs.
In June, the foundation said termination would turn ZEP holders in South Africa into undocumented migrants and force them to return to Zimbabwe if they did not meet the strict conditions of one of the visa categories on offer.
No further extension
Motsoaledi said he acted on the recommendation of the advisory committee led by Dr Cassius Lubusi for the extension since a low number of Zimbabwean nationals applied for visas or waivers.
In an interview with SABC News, Motsoaledi confirmed that only 9,000 out of the 178,0000 permit holders have applied at this stage.
“He has received 9,000 visa waivers and 4,000 applications up to so far,” he said.
The minister stressed that that would not be another extension beyond the new deadline.
“If anybody does not want to take advantage of this extension after June  then that is the end of the exemption permit,” Motsoaledi said.
Cabinet announced last November that the ZEP would not be extended again.
Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele said at the time that ZEP holders had until 31 December 2022 to apply for a visa to continue living in South Africa, return to Zimbabwe, or be deported.
In addition, no ZEP holder can be arrested, detained, or ordered to depart for not having a valid exemption permit during the grace period.
Zimbabwean nationals are also permitted to enter into or depart from South Africa, according to a government gazette.