The South African government has extended the validity of Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) by another six months until 31 December 2023, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Thursday (8 June).
The latest ZEP extension, which starts on 30 June, will allow the permit’s holders to apply for alternative types of visas and waivers. The Department of Home Affairs cited an increase in waiver and visa applications from affected Zimbabweans in recent months.
Zimbabwe Exemption Permits’ (ZEPs) validity extended
“The Minister has approved thousands of waiver applications of the affected Zimbabwean nationals. This has resulted in significant increase in the number of visa and waiver applications,” the Department said.
“Unlike before, since May/beginning of June 2023, VFS Global is now receiving between 1,000 – 1,500 visa and waiver applications of the affected Zimbabwean nationals daily. For these reasons, the Director-General has deployed more officials to assist in the processing of the applications.”
Motsoaledi took these factors into consideration before deciding to extend the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits. He also considered submissions from Zimbabwean nationals, Home Affairs officials and other interested parties.
During the ZEP extension period, South Africa will not arrest, order to depart or deport the permit’s holders “for any reason related to them not having any valid exemption certificate in their passport.”
Holders will also be free to enter or depart South Africa provided they comply with all other requirements for entry into or departure from the country, Motsoaledi explained.
The government first established the permit in 2009 for a period of five years. However, it has since extended it several times. In November 2021, the Cabinet decided to stop the extensions and gave holders a 12-month grace period until December 2022 to apply for alternative permits.
Those who would not have obtained alternative visas after the deadline would have to leave South Africa, the Cabinet said at the time. However, it later granted a six-month extension until 30 June 2023.
The Helen Suzman Foundation, which is among organisations that legally challenged the government’s 2021 decision to end ZEPs, welcomed the latest extension as a “humane gesture” by the Minister.
“We are awaiting judgment, but the expiry date was leaning as it was to be the 30th of June, and this was creating extreme anxiety for the ZEP holders leaving them in a situation of tremendous uncertainty leaving them unable to climb,” the Foundation’s Executive Director Nicole Fritz told Jacaranda FM.
You can view or download the Minister’s Immigration Directive No. 2 of 2023 here.