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Zimbabweans ask Gauteng High Court to declare them permanent residents

Not an unexpected move as their exemption permits granted by Home Affairs expire in December.
Zimbabweans say they have a legitimate expectation of being granted permanent residence once their exemption permits expire next month. Image: AdobeStock
The Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association, representing roughly 250 000 Zimbabweans in SA, has asked the Gauteng High Court to declare them permanent residents, as their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits expire in December 2021.*

They are also asking the court to direct the Minister of Home Affairs to issue them with SA ID documents on the grounds that they are permanent residents of SA in terms of the Immigration Act read together with the Identification Act.

They are also asking the court to review and set aside the decision by Home Affairs not to renew residency permits “knowing that the holders of the permit have known no other home besides South Africa for more than 10 years”.

This decision was unconscionable, irrational, unreasonable and unconstitutional, according to the court papers.

Zimbabwean Exemption Permit holders have a constitutional right to an equal path to citizenship in SA, and that right is being withheld, the association says.

Permit evolution

In April 2009, cabinet approved what was known as the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP), allowing permit holders to work, conduct business and study in SA.

According to Home Affairs, 295 000 Zimbabweans applied for the permit and just over 245 000 were issued.

This was an attempt to regularise the residence status of those Zimbabweans residing illegally in SA due to political and economic instability at home.


Those permits started expiring in December 2014, prompting Home Affairs to introduce a new permit scheme called the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permits (ZSPs), which were valid for three years.

Nearly 198 000 ZSPs were issued, according to the Department of Home Affairs. When the ZSPs expired in 2017 they were replaced by Zimbabwean Exemption Permits, or ZEPs.

These permits, like their predecessor, allowed Zimbabweans to work, study and conduct business in SA, but were not renewable and did not entitle the holder to apply for permanent residence in SA.

According to papers before the court, these permits were issued in terms of Section 31 of the Immigration Act which allows the Minister of Home Affairs to grant foreigners the rights of permanent residence for a “specified or unspecified period when special circumstances exist” that justify the decision.

The applicants in the case say the ZEP is a permanent residence permit valid for a specific period of time as allowed by the Immigration Act, and that they are therefore entitled to ID documents.

‘Legitimate expectation’

“It is further submitted that the holders of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits have a legitimate expectation for the renewal of their current permit, and for permanent residence, without any further conditions, and the right to apply for citizenship in the Republic of South Africa.”

Read: Immigrants take Home Affairs to court, say it has all but collapsed

According to Advocate Simba Chitando, who is representing the applicants in the case: “The problem faced by many hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans in SA is that they have been here for 10 years or longer under a variety of different permits, and it is generally conceded that they make a huge contribution to the SA economy, yet these permits do not allow them to enjoy the benefits that come with permanent residence, such as full access to banking facilities, or the right to accumulate pension savings.

“We argue that it is past time to grant permanent residence to those Zimbabweans who have been living and working in SA in a kind of no-man’s land. We believe it is reasonable to expect to be granted permanent residence when the ZEPs expire, which they do in December 2021.”

*The article has been corrected to reflect the fact that the ZEPs expire in December 2021, not November.



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Zimbabwean’s have been suffering under collective sanctions for years. These sanctions have destroyed the economy and created these economic refugees.

The sanctions were aimed at the leadership, however it’s ordinary Zimbabwean’s who are suffering.

Until the collective sanctions end, Zimbabwean should be allowed to live freely, without hindrance in South Africa.

Besides corruption, the biggest problem we have in SA is an unsustably high number of illegal immigrants, including Zimbabwe.

They know that it is more than 5million but it could stretch to about 10 million.

This important of desperation and dependency is one of the key factors holding SA back.

Zimbabweans have treated unfairly by the South African government through this insane temporary permits dispensation. How can you grant Zimbabweans temporary permits when Zimbabweans are here to stay? Give Zimbabweans full citizenship.

The idiotic ‘open-border policy’ that the EFF espouses, did you ever think of the consequences of such a move?
How on earth would SA support all these people when already we are struggling to support even our own citizens?
Why don’t you and the EFF’s top six lead by example and open your houses and accommodate all these people?

Glad you put the record straight and here I was believing it was caused by the land grab in Zim, the genocide of the Matabele by the 6th Brigade and Mad Bob’s economic policies that caused all this hardship. Would you please be so kind and enlighten me as to who has imposed sanctions against SA then we can set that one steaight as well

The permit holders have tax paying jobs so need for hand-outs

Correct, we can’t feed our own yet we must take care of others from up north. Even China allows next to no-one from outside into China, fewer to work there, none get citizenship, and then controls movement within the country as well. Most people in the rural areas are not allowed to move to the cities. That is what you call realpolitik – a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations.

Next the EFF is going to invite all of Nigeria to come and stay in South Africa.

‘ Zimbabwean should be allowed to live freely, without hindrance in South Africa.”
all whilst you pay for their education, medical services, social needs, security services and subsidised housing.
Spot on for you.
How many Zimbabweans do you have currently have staying in your house?

My dear Mr. Commy-Tzaar,

As per usual you seem to have taken two of your delusion pills again this morning. “Collective” sanctions should read “selective” sanctions that are specifically aimed at punishing the vampire politicians that continue to rob the very people of Zimbabwe whom they purport to have saved from tyranny!

Ignore and report

But wait! Sanctions can’t do anything to them, because they have all the land. They are therefore on a par with Monaco, as one of the richest countries on earth.

Back when the Rhodesian currency was at parity with the UK pound, and the country was known as the breadbasket of Africa, they still took up arms to “liberate” themselves from having enough to eat and a successful economy. Their failure today to take up arms, indicates that they are happy with being poor and starving. They deserve no sympathy whatsoever, because they are getting the government they deserve.

I do not know what all the fuss is about, they got what they voted for.

Venezuela and Cuba also got what they voted for, they voted with their hearts and not their minds and cannot eat anymore.

I feel sympathy for them, in the same way that I sympathize for all South Africans that didn’t vote for our government.

Zimbabweans laugh at people like you. They see the average South African as lazy, entitled, xenophobic and uneducated. Pretty much describes the EFF.

Send them back to fight for their country. By the way, they are targeted sanctions so don’t use the “we wuz opresssed by kolonizuz”

The country was destroyed by african liberation movements same as SA. All gone to hell

I suspect you are the “Robert from Sydney”?

Robert from Sydney?

There are some similarities.

Like Zanu PF, you lack the basic understanding of the targeted sanctions.

This guy is hilarious!

Just give it to them. It’s 250k people who have some papers and have been here for a long time. Rather worry about the 10 million (and counting) paperless Zimbabweans.

250k was in 2010. Way less now due to various reasons.

So the government of Zimbabwe assumes no responsibility of their mess. It was the sanctions and nothing else. How delusional. Sanctions did not destroy Zimbabwe, Mugabe destroyed it.

And how much tax income would these people generate for the sa government other than indirect tax and vat or is it a free ride??

Not much Tax for South Africa, everything goes north.

See South Africa as a family in a house, if the family works hard and follows the rules, the house prospers else everyone goes hungry and has nothing to wear.

Well with the fantasy of an African Union that has been talked about for decades, what is wrong with Zimbos moving across borders?

In reality, if we give them PR, what extra burdon would it add to our already looted and hollowed-out state institutions?

Only a few hundred thousand Zimbos in SA? There are a few million more than that.

A points system like Australia uses might work: Select productive, law abiding (i.e. no criminal record) candidates who’s skills are needed. The last thing SA needs are more spongers who don’t contribute anything meaningful to society.

Do you really think our gavamunt is capable of something like that ? It would be another kingdom of corruption.

We live in hope …

I’ll take a few millions Zims any day – as long as its a straight swap, one for one

The greatest SA ANC stupidity for me is that, under Mbeki, Mugabe was given a thumbs up to steal and destroy that country’s economy. Why? My guess is that Thabo and Bob were old chums, Bob contributed generously to the ANC cause and the ANC loved seeing the boot put into white fammas.

But how senseless. A vibrant Zim next to SA would have saved SA millions of refugees and provided a good market for import and export from that landlocked country as well as the provision of services and economic opportunity for SA companies.

Typical boneheaded dishonest and ideologically bankrupt ANC think has crippled two countries. Well done for Afrika.

It’s not only Zimbabweans :My European passported daughter in law ,having had 2 kids in RSA has given up on perm residency after ,6 years of trying ,so the whole family are now in Europe & the tax man is considerably less well off . Country run by mamparas :
Ps : I’d hire a Zimbabwean anytime prior to our local surly clowns

Why not just annex Zimbabwe to South Africa? Most Zimbabweans are in SA already in any case?

I don’t see what the issue is.. provided they self sustainable for a period prior, legitimate immigrant (didn’t cross a fence & river) and have paid tax during their stay it will be in the best interest of SA to allow at minimum PR status.

Illegal immigrants are the ones you need to worry about.

I have yet to come across anyone who employs / employed one of these Zimbabweans who complain about their work ethic, honesty, trustworthiness and good manners. Which is more than you can say of a good number of South Africans …

A different issue. I’m married to an ex-Zimbabwean, now with full ZA citizenship, ID number etc., and lived, worked here, and paid tax for at least 25 years. But cannot upgrade the Green ID book to a new ID card. Home Affairs says it is a “system glitch”, foreign-born citizens are “eligible for ID cards”, but we have no way to issue them. For at least five years now. I think it is a deliberate policy discrimination.

It makes a difference. The old ID photo in the Green ID book is so old that it mismatched the newer driver’s licence photo on the NATIS database, flagging a “possible fraudster” warning. So the attempt to open a new bank account got stuck for the last three years.

apply for the old id book, or passport

However this cookie is going to crumble , my experience is that on average the Zimbos are better educated , much easier trainable and willing to work with a better reliability and attitude than the average local worker. Yes , there are exceptions , but they are rare indeed. The Zimbos are also more reliable and not so strike prone.

This is a good thing to do, and we should double the number. Give full SA citizenship to 500,000 Zimbabweans who have lived in SA permanently for 8+ years. They have contributed enormously to the SA economy over the those years. It has been our gain and Zimbabwe’s loss.

End of comments.



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