On 28 June 2023, the Pretoria High Court overturned the decision by the Minister of Home Affairs to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit scheme.
The decision was challenged by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA).
The Minister was widely criticised for his September 2021 decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) programme. There are around 178 000 Zimbabwean ZEP permit holders in South Africa.
The Minister’s decision was challenged on the grounds that he did not comply with the procedural requirements of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA), particularly the requirement to allow those affected by the decision, including the general public, a reasonable opportunity to make representations before taking the decision.
The applicants argued that the Minister failed to comply with the procedural requirements contained in sections 3 and 4 of PAJA before making the decision, rendering the decision procedurally unfair.
In a unanimous judgment by a full bench of the court, Judge Colleen Collis held the Minister’s decision to terminate the ZEP programme to be ‘unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid,’ and duly set the decision aside. The Court remitted the matter back to the Minister to take a new decision, in accordance with PAJA, within 12 months.
The Court further ordered that all ZEPs be automatically extended for a further 12 months pending the Minister’s decision.
The practical effect of the judgement is that all ZEPs which expired on 31 December 2021 will now be deemed to be valid until 30 June 2024. ZEP holders may freely travel to and from South Africa and may not be arrested or deported on the basis of holding an expired permit.
The full judgment can be found here.
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