Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says the government’s decision to end the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) still stands.
On Monday, his Department issued Immigration Directive No. 11 of 2021, which withdrew Immigration Directive No. 10 of 2021. The latter directive contained guidelines for institutions on how to handle ZEP holders.
“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.”
Withdrawal due to ‘clerical issue’
Speaking in an interview with talk radio 702 on Tuesday, Motsoaledi said a “clerical issue” – not a change of policy – had forced the Department to withdraw the directive.
“The decision about terminating the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit and then giving them a 12-month grace period to apply for other statuses – the is no withdrawal of that decision,” Motsoaledi said.
“What was withdrawn was a circular which was issued by the Department of Home Affairs after a Cabinet decision, a circular which purports to explain what the banks must do. That circular was very wrong, it was not supposed to be issued [and] was causing more confusion because it added a proviso to the decision that was announced by Minister Mondli Gungubele.”
The Minister explained that contrary to what the directive had stated, there was no Cabinet decision that ZEP holders must show banks and other institutions proof that they have applied for mainstream permits.
“But the initial decision about the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit – nothing has changed, nothing is going to change [and] it still stands,” he added.
Court case struck off the roll
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association and civil society group African Amity agreed to have their court challenge against the directive struck off the roll on Tuesday, SABC News reported.
This followed a discussion between their lawyers and those representing the Home Affairs Department following the latter’s withdrawal of the directive.
The decision to end the ZEP, which was first started in 2009 for a five-year period but has since been extended three times, will affect around 200,000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa.