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A legal challenge is being mounted against the home affairs ministry’s decision to terminate the permit system allowing Zimbabweans to live legally in SA.

Nicole Fritz, CEO of the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), says the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) has prevailed for well over a decade, meaning that permit-holders have built lives, families and careers and contributed to SA’s economy.

The November announcement of the ZEP termination, which affects about 178,000 Zimbabweans working and studying in SA, came with little notification and no public consultation.

“At present, ZEP holders must have obtained other forms of residency authorisation — in most cases an almost impossible requirement — by December 31 or leave SA,” said the foundation.

“They will be put to a desperate choice: to remain in SA as undocumented migrants with all the vulnerability that attaches to such status, or return to a Zimbabwe that, to all intents and purposes, is unchanged from the country they fled.”

The foundation added there are thousands of children who had been born in SA to ZEP holders during this time who had never visited their parents’ country of origin.

“It is not the position of the HSF that those migrants who are in SA unlawfully should be entitled to remain, nor that the ZEP must continue in perpetuity.

“Rather, our position is that those who have scrupulously observed SA’s laws to live and work here under the ZEP cannot have such permits terminated without fair process, good reason and a meaningful opportunity to regularise their status.

“It is what our constitutional order demands.”



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