Appeal against ZEPs ruling faces misinformation campaign

The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), a human rights organisation that successfully challenged the South African government’s plan to revoke Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) by December 2022, says their second application to oppose the appeal request made by South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs has since been the target of nasty and dangerous misinformation campaigns.

This statement follows court proceedings on September 18, 2023, where South African Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the Director General (DG) of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Livhuwani Tommy Makhode, argued in Pretoria’s Gauteng High Court that their government has no grounds for continuing to allow the ZEPs as that was a temporary solution.

Motsoaledi and Makhode are seeking permission to approach the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn a previous judgment that declared the termination of the ZEP programme unlawful and unconstitutional.

According to reports, judgment in that case has been reserved.

However, HSF said it made a separate application, not yet heard by the court,  to oppose the appeal request made by South Africa’s Home Affairs Ministry but lamented how their application has since been the subject of malicious and dangerous misinformation campaigns.

“The campaigns led by shadowy actors on social media have sought to incite violence against HSF’s staff for allegedly preventing the Minister from making migration policy in general. Nothing about HSF litigation in this matter -not the original review of the decision to terminate the ZEP nor the application to keep it in force pending a finalised appeal process -does anything of the sort,” said HSF following the court proceedings.

The human rights organisation said in each application, HSF has simply sought to protect the basic rights of ZEP holders as people who have lived in South Africa “perfectly lawfully for the past 14 years.

“They have to live by fair and rational government decision-making and to make sure that they do not languish in legal uncertainty while the Minister pursues the processes of appeal,” said HSF.

“While the focus of this matter may be on ZEP holders, make no mistake, government decision-making devoid of consultation and fair process and absent sound reason imperils the rights of us all.”

The previous judgment extended ZEPS to June 30, 2024, granting legal protection to around 178 000 Zimbabweans, allowing them to live, work, and attend school in South Africa 

During court proceedings mentioned above, the Home Affairs Minister and the DG’s lawyer, Advocate William Mokhare, argued before Judges Colleen Collis, Mandlenkosi Motha, and Gcina Malindi that the ZEPs, which were introduced in 2009, were always intended to be a temporary solution to allow Zimbabweans who fled political and economic turmoil in their country to live and work in South Africa “until the government was satisfied” that the programme could be terminated.

The lawyer argued the South African government had “no legitimate purpose” for the ZEPs to continue since the original conditions that Zimbabweans escaped from were no longer prevalent.

“We submit that on a proper scrutiny of this decision, looking at how initially it was taken in 2009 and the purpose it sought to serve and its termination, it is one that is more attune to the policy-laden decision than an administrative decision,” Mokhare said.

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