SA Home Affairs Minister, Leon Schreiber, not promising to prolong ZEP

HERO: New South Africa Home Affairs Minister Leon Schreiber


South Africa’s newly-appointed Home Affairs Minister Leon Schreiber is not yet committing to a position on the future of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) which is set to expire in 2025.

The Constitutional Court on June 18, 2024, dismissed former Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s bid to appeal the Gauteng High Court ruling that invalidated the decision to terminate the ZEP.

The appointment of the Democratic Alliance (DA) MP as Home Affairs Minister has given ZEP holders hope that he will make it easier for them to obtain permanent residency.

Hellen Zille, Chairperson of the Federal Council of the DA, speaking ahead of South Africa’s May 29, 2024 general elections, said that Zimbabwean nationals are industrious contributors to the local economy and should be afforded opportunities to regularise their ZEPs.

However, according to SABC News, Schreiber said any decision on ZEPs must be preceded by a rational and constitutionally fair process. He said:

It is broader than just one permit because this is going to affect how you are going to handle immigration issues, actually, across the board. And so, we are going to have to take some time, not rush into anything, because I think that is one of the issues that we saw in those court rulings – that we need to go and consider, really, that we are acting rationally within the rule of law before we make any of those decisions. So, there will be a lot of focus on getting it right.

ZEP was introduced by the South African Department of Home Affairs to regularize the status of undocumented Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

Under the ZEP, approximately 178,000 Zimbabwean nationals who arrived in South Africa before 2009 could apply for a permit, allowing them to reside and work legally in the country.

Initially valid for four years, the ZEP has been extended, with the new permits now valid until 29 November 2025.

However, holders of the ZEP are not eligible for permanent residence status, and the permits are not renewable.

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