Zimbabwe’s Exemption Permit (ZEP) scheme is the “largest case of fraud and theft ever committed by the government of one country against nationals of its neighboring country in the history of Africa”, according to court documents filed by the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders Association (Zepha).
The association is asking the Gauteng High Court to grant permanent residency to around 200,000 ZEP holders.
The ZEP system, which allows Zimbabweans to work in South Africa, was suspended in December 2021, then extended until the end of 2022, to give permit holders more time to apply for other permits or face penalties. deportation or voluntary repatriation to Zimbabwe.
One of the reasons cited by the Department of the Interior (DHA) for suspending the ZEP scheme is its cost.
This is contradicted by Zepha chairwoman Sandra Chinyanya, who argues in an affidavit before the court that the DHA has made money since it introduced the permit scheme for Zimbabweans more than a decade ago.
Filing for the DHA, Chief Executive Livhuwani Makhode said R145.8 million had been requested from the National Treasury to start the special exemption scheme, but only R15 million had been allocated to do so. dealing with the exemption process for SADC (Southern African Development Community nationals).
This small stipend was proof that granting exemptions to SADC nationals seeking asylum was unsustainable, Makhode says in an affidavit.
Chinyanya responds that around 200,000 Zimbabweans had to pay R1,090 each for the ZEP, and R890 for its predecessor, the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP), making a total of R374.2 million – and that doesn’t count. not unsuccessful applicants, nor taxes paid in South Africa by successful applicants over the past decade or more.
SA financially exploits ZEP holders, says Chinyana.
The defendants in the case are the Minister and DG of Interior, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the cabinet.
“This fact, together with the allegations of corruption within the Zondo Commission, which proved that corrupt money [was] by Migration State officials, raises the question of what happened to the estimated total amount of R374.2 million that exemption holders paid for their permits, and why [Home Affairs] approached the National Treasury to begin.
The permit system is a farcical reshuffling of an ethnic minority, ‘no different from the fascists of yore, who shamelessly cashed in potential billions of rand from most Zimbabwean migrants,’ says lawyer Simba Chitando, who represents Zepha , in a forceful statement.
“The next step for the cabinet will obviously be the white people of this country, through a program of reforms, and then every other ethnic minority with means, until the majority has plundered the minority,” he adds.
“Sober justice” the only hope
“The only hope for South Africa and the region’s short-term stability is a sober justice system. Alongside business leaders who must now diversify their investments into countries neighboring South Africa to avoid the inevitable economic collapse that is looming on the horizon.
The case was launched in October 2021, when Zepha filed a petition in the Gauteng High Court to compel Home Affairs to issue them with South African identity documents and declare them permanent residents.
In response, Makhode of Home Affairs argues that the ZEP system has its genesis in colonial times.
The Aliens Act 1937 was introduced to regulate the entry and residence status of such citizens of other Commonwealth countries at a time when South Africa was a member of the Commonwealth.
Zepha says the department’s policy towards Zimbabwean exemption permit holders is schizophrenic.
“ZEP holders were asked to change the conditions of their stay in South Africa during the year 2022, even though the permit states that they cannot change the conditions of their stay. The conditions of the permit were impossible to fulfill, and the respondents themselves renewed them even though they were not renewable and extended them even though they cannot be extended.
The massive migration of Zimbabweans to South Africa began in 2001 when that country faced sanctions for its land reform program, Chinyanya says. Migration accelerated again after 2008 in response to the country’s political and economic crises.
Zepha says it’s embarrassing that the DHA relies on colonial-era immigration laws and exemptions that favored whites from Commonwealth countries and former Portuguese colonies, but specifically excluded black Africans.
‘Black on Black Prejudice’
“This is clearly black-on-black prejudice by the ANC government on record here in the national history of South Africa, and presently before this Honorable Court,” reads Chinyanya’s affidavit.
The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) is also challenging the DHA’s decision to end the ZEP system and wants the North Gauteng High Court to declare all existing ZEPs valid. This would save any ZEP holder from being arrested or expelled.
Foundation CEO Nicole Fritz says in her court documents that the Home Secretary granted exemptions to eligible Zimbabweans for more than 13 years under various exemption schemes, starting with the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) in 2009, which gave legal status to more than 250,000 Zimbabweans who had fled that country’s political and economic instability. This scheme was extended and renamed Zimbabwean Special Permit (ZSP) in 2014 and ZEP in 2017.
“Relying on these permits, Zimbabwean nationals have established lives, families and careers in South Africa, which have now been put in jeopardy,” according to Fritz’s affidavit.
There is a risk that tens of thousands of Zimbabweans will become undocumented from December 31, 2022. They will not be able to obtain alternative visas in time, even if they are eligible, due to DHA backlogs and delays.
The Zepha case differs in that it wants the court to compel Home Affairs to grant ZEP holders SA identification documents. They argue that the ZEP is a permanent residence permit valid for a fixed period as permitted by immigration law, and that they are therefore entitled to identity documents.
The HSF also pointed to the fact that few Zimbabweans would be eligible for work permits under the essential skills list, and would likely not be successful in obtaining asylum.
One of the reasons given by Home Affairs for deciding not to extend the PTA is high unemployment in South Africa, now at its worst rate since 2008.
“Recently, the country has seen violent clashes between foreign nationals and citizens. This is due to the scarcity of resources in the country,” the DHA affidavit states.
Chinyanya responds that there is no evidence that ZEP holders are the cause of unemployment in South Africa, and that the cause of xenophobic violence cannot be blamed solely on competition for scarce resources, but on a variety of issues, such as tribalism, ethnic tensions, populism and incitement by political leaders.
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