SOUTH Africa’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi (pictured) has told the High Court in Pretoria that there is no reason to continue favouring Zimbabwean nationals with a special work permit, saying it was initially meant to be a temporary arrangement to assist people affected by economic and political turmoil.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC) has been blamed for endorsing Zimbabwe’s sham election which has plunged the country into a spiral of economic and political instability.
Zimbabwean migrants, together with other foreign nationals, have constantly been targeted by Operation Dudula, an anti-immigrant vigilante group of South African citizens which has been accusing them of taking their jobs and committing crimes such as drug peddling.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans are resident in South Africa after fleeing political and economic turmoil back home. Critics accuse the South African government of fuelling the plight of long-suffering citizens by defending Zanu PF misrule.
Many Zimbabweans are flocking to South Africa for better healthcare, amid a deepening socio-economic crisis which has seen public health facilities fail to provide life-saving services.
While Sadc has for the first time condemned Zimbabwean elections over failure to meet local and international guidelines for democratic polls, South Africa has constantly been in Mnangagwa’s corner, raising an outcry.
For instance, this week at the 78th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), South African president Cyril Ramaphosa said South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told the UN that the Sadc report has not yet been finalised and it does not invalidate the elections, but merely points out flaws in the electoral process for improvement.
“Listening to President Ramaphosa’s remarks on the Zimbabwean election and the Sadc report, we know South Africa benefits from cheap labour from Zimbabwean illegal immigrants.
“And so, Zimbabwe is heavily reliant on South African industries for everything so it boosts SA’s economy; that is why they do not want to see Zimbabwe stable and successful. They will defend Zanu PF with everything they have,” said activist Lisa Ncube on X this week.
Ironically, while Ramaphosa has taken a strange stance on Zimbabwe’s general election, Motsoaledi is seeking permission to overturn a previous judgment, which declared the termination of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) programme unlawful and unconstitutional.
In June, a South African independent think-tank, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), was granted an interdict barring the country’s Home Affairs department from deporting, arresting and detaining immigrants with invalid ZEP.
In his Supreme Court appeal, Motsoaledi through his lawyer Advocate William Mokhare told the court that there was no legitimate purpose to continue with the ZEP as it has always been 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 government was satisfied”.
“So the issue really before court, as it correctly pointed out, was whether the termination of the dispensation of the exemption programme that was given to the Zimbabwean nation accorded with the constitutional prescripts and whether it was done in a manner that is permitted by law,” Mokhare said.
“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 attuned to the policy-laden decision than an administrative decision,” Mokhare said.
The court ought to have embarked on the exercise of rationality (because) what the court did was to embark on a procedural rationality inquiry, but it intertwined it with procedural fairness and the two are quite distinct,” Mokhare said.
Mokhare said the impact of the ZEP termination on families, particularly on children living in South Africa, had always been foreseen, but it could have not created an impression that the programme would remain permanent.
“The upshot of it . . . is to say that no decision can be made by the minister which will result in Zimbabweans having to be returned to their country because then one will argue that they have already cemented their lives in South Africa to an extent that to root them is to disrupt their families and is therefore unconstitutional and infringing their dignity.”