Home Affairs withdraws directive on Zimbabwean Exemption Permit

Image credit: Facebook/Department of Home Affairs

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) has withdrawn Immigration Directive No. 10 of 2021 on the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP).

The Department issued the withdrawal via Immigration Directive No. 11 of 2021, which is published on its website, on Monday (13 December).

Zimbabwean Exemption Permits directive withdrawn

“Kindly note that Immigration Directive No. 10 of 2021 is hereby withdrawn,” the latest directive stated.

“The contents of this Immigration Directive must be brought to the attention of all officials and applicants concerned.”

In November, South Africa’s Cabinet decided to no longer issue an extension of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit, which was first started in 2009 for a five-year period but has since been extended several times. ZEPs were due to expire on 31 December 2021.

However, the Cabinet gave ZEP holders a 12-month grace period until 31 December 2022. “During this period, the holders of this permit should apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation. At the expiry of this 12-month period, those who are not successful will have to leave South Africa or be deported,” it stated.

Immigration Directive No. 10 of 2021 on ZEP

On 29 November, the Department of Home Affairs subsequently issued Immigration Directive No. 10, thereby giving effect to the Cabinet’s decision.

“All Companies, Learning Institutes and Banks are to kindly note that applicants who are in possession of a ZEP expiring on the 31st of December 2021 must be allowed to continue with their services, provided they submit proof of application for a mainstream visa, in terms of the Immigration Act and Immigration Regulations. Proof of application must be a VFS receipt,” the Directive stated.

“All applicants with a ZEP must be allowed to travel freely in and out of South Africa until 31 December 2022 when the 12-month grace period ends, after which they will only be allowed to travel in and out of South Africa if in possession of a valid visa.”

The Department did not give reasons for the withdrawal of this Directive and had not issued a media statement at the time of publishing this article.

However, the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association and civil society group African Amity had already made an urgent high court application to challenge the government’s decision not to extend the ZEP.

“According to the 29 November 2021 directive from [the director-general of Home Affairs], ZEP holders are expected to consider their legal options provided for by the Immigration Act and the Immigration Regulations, make a decision that impacts their future and that of their families, and then make an informed decision, all in a matter of weeks, at the risk of potential deportation if the direction they elect is wrong,” they argued.

“This is indefensible. It is absurd. It is cruel. It is inhuman. It is punitive in nature. It is irrational, unreasonable, and unfair.”

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