Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has dismissed suggestions that his department has withdrawn its decision to end the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs).
On Monday, the Department of Home Affairs published a statement withdrawing a directive it issued last month, although it did not expand on said directive.
Speaking to 702 on Tuesday, Motsoaledi provided clarity on the matter, explaining that the government’s decision not to renew the special exemption permit still stands.
“There should not be any impression that the decision about terminating the [ZEP] and then giving them a 12-month grace period to apply for other statuses… there is no withdrawal of that decision,” he said.
Motsoaledi insisted that the initial decision to end the ZEP had not changed.
“We have withdrawn a circular which was issued by the officials in the department after a Cabinet decision, a circular which purports to explain what the banks must do. That circular was wrong, it caused more confusion,” the minister explained.
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 a ZEP expiring on 31 December this year, unless the permit holders submitted proof of their application for a “mainstream” visa.
Home Affairs also instructed Zimbabweans to ensure that their applications complied with the provisions and requirements of the Immigration Act and its accompanying regulations.
Last month, Cabinet took a decision not to renew the special exemption permit, which was granted to more than 250,000 Zimbabweans in South Africa.
However, Zimbabweans were given a 12-month grace period after the expiry of the current ZEP.
“Cabinet considered the much-talked-about ZEP and also noted the fake news being spread on these permits. The first Zimbabwean special dispensation started in 2009 and was called the Dispensation for Zimbabwe Permit.
“It provided for the documentation of qualifying Zimbabweans for a five-year period. In 2014, the dispensation was extended by three years and called the Zimbabwean Special Permit.
“The current ZEP was initiated in 2017 and comes to an end on 31 December 2021. Following its deliberations, Cabinet decided to no longer issue extensions to the Zimbabwean special dispensations,” Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said during a media briefing.
Gungubele said the holders of the permit should apply for “other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation” in the grace period, otherwise they would be deported.
The Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday also heard the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders’ Association and non-profit organisation African Amity’s application, which sought to overturn Home Affairs’ decision not to renew the ZEP.
According to media reports, both parties and Home Affairs’ attorneys have decided to settle the matter out of court.
The permits holders’ association wants Zimbabweans to be declared as permanent South African residents, but Home Affairs said it would only consider applications for permanent residence from January 2022.