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SA minister in scathing riposte at claims he’s trying to help Zanu PF win 2023 elections

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By UK Correspondent


SOUTH Africa’s home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has scornfully dismissed speculation that his decision to extend permits for Zimbabwean immigrants was aimed at helping the ruling Zanu PF party win next year’s crunch general elections.

Motsoaledi had, throughout the year, vowed to not renew the expiring Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), meaning its holders – many who had lived in South Africa for more than a decade – would have to return home.

However, last month the minister announced a surprise decision to extend the permits for another six months to June 2023.

Civil society organisation, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), which had launched a legal challenge against the planned cancelation, said it would continue with the court fight.

“Despite that extension, the legal challenge to the decision to end the ZEP continues,” the foundation said in a statement.

It added; “There is now some speculation that the reason for this most recent six-month extension is that it is a sop to Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu PF: delaying the return of those who fled its murderous policies until after the next elections, scheduled for April 2023, means they cannot vote against Zanu.”

SA Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi

That drew a scathing response from Minister Motsoaledi who dismissed the suggestion as a “ridiculous” and “bizarre conspiracy theory”.

“ … if HSF’s worry is the outcome of elections in Zimbabwe, then in that event, the Minister publicly challenges HSF to use its massive resources to mobilise all the Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa go and participate in the April 2023 elections,” the home affairs minister said in a statement.

“In this manner the HSF will be putting their money where their mouth is. After all, it is a democratic obligation of a citizen of any country to vote in any elections in order to influence the direction that their country takes.”

Zanu PF considers South Africa’s ruling ANC party a sister liberation movement and the latter has faced criticism for not being tougher with authorities in Harare who face allegations of human rights abuses, electoral maleficence and crackdowns against the opposition.

Cancellation of the ZEP would affect some 178,000 holders but a toughening of the Pretoria government’s position against immigrants would affect hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans based in South Africa.

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Latest Harare government statistics indicated that 700,000 Zimbabweans are based in South Africa, the majority having crossed the border to escape economic hardships back home.

The HSF said it is important to recall why the exemption permit was introduced in the first place.

“Migrants are not the cause of our unemployment, poverty, crime or healthcare crisis. But even if there were some truth to this notion, it is hard to see why we would address the issue by targeting that small section of migrants who have built their lives here in perfectly legal fashion,” the foundation said.

“It is worth recalling that the ZEP, in its original formulation, the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Project, was devised and offered in 2008/9 in the aftermath of horrific election-related violence in Zimbabwe.

“Hundreds of thousands fled, streaming into South Africa and a recognition that our migrant reception systems would be overwhelmed, that we needed to safely track and record those entering the country in our own security interests and the prohibitive expense of repeated detentions and deportations led to its implementation.”

The foundation said it does not make sense to return Zimbabweans home when the Harare government’s violation of human rights had not changed.

“(The Zimbabwe government’s) policies and conduct put huge numbers of Zimbabweans to flight and the idea that it would now genuinely act to secure their interests is fanciful.

“ZEP holders turn in the wind: facing a receiving state that says “time’s up, you must go”, and a sending state that essentially chased them away. It is that liminal condition that makes them so vulnerable,” the foundation added.