Decision not to extend ZEPs still stands

South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, has clarified the government’s position on the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEPs) noting that they will still expire at end of this year and followed by a 12 month’s grace period contrary to news reports that the government had reversed its earlier decision not to renew the ZEPs.

This comes after the South African government withdrew a directive to banks and universities informing them not to deny immigrants such services until the end of December 31, 2022.

The initial circular sent out by the South African government reportedly said migrants should produce receipts as proof that they have made a permit application otherwise they could not have bank accounts and be employed from the first of January 2022.

When the above circular was revoked, it was misinterpreted by some news organisations as the reversal of the November 25, 2021 directive to discontinue the ZEPs.

In an interview with CITE, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, explained the South Africa cabinet decision not to renew the ZEPs was still in effect.

“This is an internal directive, you remember that financial institutions like banks wanted to close down people’s accounts before the expiry of the 12 months grace period. So the directive is that banks and other institutions should continue to provide services until December 31, 2022. This directive has nothing to do with the previous cabinet decision,” he said.

Mabhena also informed Zimbabweans that the Department of Home Affairs in South Africa is the only source of information about immigration and permit issues.

“As an update to the Zimbabwean Community in South Africa members, we have seen a message circulating on social media with the headline of the immigration directive on the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit. The revocation is meant for the initial Directive 10, which told organisations to continue to render their services in the next 12 months after 31 December 2021 on conditions that:

“One – ZEP holders must produce proof of application for a mainstream visa. Of which proof must be a VFS receipt.

“Two – Those that wanted to travel outside the country would have been allowed to do so freely if they had proof of application until 31 December 2022.”

The chairperson noted that while these directives had been withdrawn, there was currently no information on new directives over the implementation of the ZEP.

“As usual we await the authorities to give us clarity and have started engagements to understand this directive’s implications. We recommend our members to wait for the Department of Home Affairs to give us clarity and remind everyone that the Department of Home Affairs is the only source of information about immigration and permit issues,” Mabhena said.

Leader of the African Diaspora Global Network, a migrant-rights organisation based in South Africa, Dr Vusumuzi Sibanda, also concurred that there was a misinterpretation of the directive sent out to banks by the Department of Home Affairs.

“What has happened is the Department of Home Affairs has revoked Directive 10 of 2021, which was explaining how the decision to withdraw and not to renew the permits was going to be carried out and how it would work,” he said.

“Because that directive was problematic and challenged in court on an urgent basis because it was impossible to implement, which was what was challenged in court, is what the Department of Home Affairs has only reversed. Basically the directive said people should produce receipts as proof that they have made an application otherwise they cannot have bank accounts and be employed from the first of January 2022.”

Dr Sibanda added that revoking this directive had nothing to do with extending the ZEPs for holders.

“It’s not a decision of them giving out new permits. This is not true. It’s just that directive and it has not been replaced with any other directive,” he stated.

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