SA: Foundation to continue with legal challenge to termination of ZEP

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By Business Day

SOUTH AFRICA: The Helen Suzman Foundation will pursue its legal challenge of the termination of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) despite home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi extending the permit to June 2023, foundation director Nicole Fritz said on Tuesday.

The termination of the ZEP will affect about 178 000 Zimbabweans, who have lived and worked in SA for over a decade.

“The extension of the ZEP to 30 June 2023 while potentially holding out some relief to individual ZEP holders does not, in our view, cure the fundamental defects in the minister’s decision to end the permit and so the court action continues,” Fritz said in a statement after her comments in an opinion piece on the News24 website on Tuesday.

“The primary defect, not remedied by the extension, is that these decisions have been taken without any form of public consultation whatsoever — no prior notice, no calls for representations from affected ZEP holders, no notice and comment process, no public inquiries and no meaningful engagement with civil society,” she added.

“This flies in the face of the most basic tenets of procedural fairness and ensures an uninformed decision. The extension also fails to demonstrate any more compelling reasons in support of the decision to end the ZEP than was the case before the extension was granted and, without more, it doesn’t genuinely offer ZEP holders any greater an opportunity to migrate to other visas or secure individual waivers and exemptions and so regularise their status.”

Lawful status

Fritz said the legal challenge is being brought in the interests of ZEP holders who have lived in SA lawfully for more than a decade and have contributed to the country in many ways. At the very least they deserved to be heard and consulted ahead of any potential decision which would impose enormous harm on them, she added.

‘Very little reason has been proffered by the department for the decision to terminate the ZEP. In fact, in an about-turn, it now says that it made no decision, it simply allowed the ZEP to lapse and so essentially it needs no reason,” Fritz said.

“But without reason, without hard data supporting this decision, we have no way of assessing whether it is net positive or net negative for SA.

“The minister has vaguely gestured to unemployment and crime at different points as some sort of justification. But there’s no data to support such reasons and in their legal papers the department appears wisely to have abandoned such explanation, she added.

“Bad decisions taken by government — decisions without considered reason and deliberation — impact us negatively even if we are not the direct targets. They consume finite resources, human and financial.”