The Pretoria High Court is currently hearing a case brought by the Helen Suzman Foundation against Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, regarding his decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP). The Foundation argues that the Minister’s decision was unconstitutional, unlawful, and invalid, and did not follow proper protocol.
The ZEP is a special permit that allows Zimbabweans and their children temporary legal status to live, work and study in South Africa. It was introduced in 2009 to cope with the influx of undocumented Zimbabweans seeking employment and better living conditions. The permit was renewed three times before the Department of Home Affairs announced last year that it would not be renewed again.
The Foundation is seeking a declaration that the Minister’s decision is invalid, and that it be set aside. Advocate Steven Budlender, who is representing the Foundation, argued that the Minister’s decision did not follow proper protocol, and that any termination of the program must follow a fair and procedurally rational consultation process, be consistent with fundamental constitutional rights, and be based on lawful, rational, and reasonable grounds.
The decision to terminate the ZEP program has significant consequences for Zimbabwean nationals residing in South Africa. Without legal status, they will not be able to work or access basic services, which may result in increased poverty and hardship for them and their families.
The case raises important questions about the proper procedure that the Minister must follow when making decisions of this nature. It also highlights the treatment of undocumented migrants in South Africa, and the government’s obligation to protect their rights and dignity.
The hearing is ongoing, and it remains to be seen how the court will rule. However, this case underscores the importance of following proper protocol when making decisions that impact the lives of thousands of people, and the need for governments to respect the rights and dignity of all migrants, regardless of their legal status.