Court says no need for enforcement order on ZEP ruling
Helen Suzman Foundation welcomes the confirmation that protection for permit holders is in place until June 2024
Civil rights groups representing Zimbabwean exemption permit (ZEP) holders were dealt a blow in the Pretoria high court on Tuesday in their bid to enforce an earlier order they had won.
That order was to compel the home affairs minister to prevent the deportation of 178,000 permit holders. However, on Tuesday the court maintained its earlier order to protect the ZEP holders’ rights, which means they still have rights until June 2024, when the order expires.
Earlier in 2023, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in SA (Cormsa) successfully argued in the Pretoria high court to overturn the minister’s earlier decision to end the permits. The court ordered that the ZEP holders’ rights will remain in place until 2024.
In September, the same court dismissed the department’s leave to appeal. The minister’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal has yet to be heard.
Following this, and as a result of the minister’s refusal to guarantee the permit holders’ rights, the groups in October asked the court to make sure the minister follows its earlier order protecting ZEP holders. Since the minister had lodged appeals against the order, this threatened the rights of ZEP holders.
But on Tuesday the court refused to make this assurance an order of the court.
The full bench said what the groups sought was already “granted by operation of the law” and they were asking “for more” than they are strictly allowed. The court said its previous order that the current rights protecting holders remain in place is not under threat and stands. “The mere production of the court order affords the ZEP holders protection,” the court ruled.
It also refused a personal costs order against home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, which comes off the back of a personal costs order against him from the Constitutional Court last week.
The department said in a statement that it welcomes the judgment “dismissing the ill-conceived enforcement application”.
It also said the “judgment must serve as a wake-up call to the affected Zimbabwean nationals to follow the procedures outlined by the minister to regularise their stay in the republic and forget about false promises”.
The department dismissed possible catastrophes befalling ZEP holders as existing “only in the minds of HSF and Cormsa”. It also noted that a white paper overhauling the SA migration system will be “published in due course”.
The HSF said that despite the dismissal “the high court confirmed that the ZEP is valid and holders will continue to enjoy the protections currently afforded to them until June 2024”.
The HSF also explained the reason for the litigation after its previous success. “HSF believed the court’s pronouncement on the status and effect of the June 2023 order was required in the face of growing confusion amid shifting stances taken by the department of home affairs,” it said.
“While HSF was not successful in obtaining an order enforcing the interim relief until all appeal processes are concluded, it welcomes the confirmation of the validity of the ZEP and protections afforded to permit holders until at least June 2024.”
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