It’s back to court for Zimbabwean children denied schooling in South Africa due to parents’ ‘uncertain’ legal status

Education in South Africa
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JOHANNESBURG – In yet another case seeking to protect the rights of Zimbabweans in South Africa, the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders Association (Zepha) is asking the Gauteng High Court to set aside what it says is a government decision to refuse to enrol children of Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders.

Cited as respondents in the case are the ministers and directors-general of Basic Education and Home Affairs.

One of the applicants deposes that he was unable to register his daughter at Rand Park High in Johannesburg in what is supposed to be her matric year.

The reason given by the school was the uncertainty of his legal status in SA following the 24 November 2021 decision by the Department of Home Affairs to end the ZEP system which allows Zimbabweans to live and work in SA.

A statement by Zepha says this is just one of several such instances of children of Zimbabweans being denied enrolment in SA schools.

“This is a cruel, inhuman, and unconstitutional punishment of Zimbabwean children’s right to complete their education,” says Zepha in a statement.

The decision by Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to end the ZEP system by 30 June this year is the subject of no fewer than three separate challenges, one of them by Zepha, which will be heard in April.

The three groups are Zepha, the Helen Suzman Foundation and the Zimbabwe Immigration Federation – all of which are challenging the Home Affairs decision to end the ZEP system, which was introduced more than a decade ago to legitimise the status of Zimbabweans fleeing political and economic turmoil at home.

All three groups argue in their court papers that the termination of the ZEP system will create a humanitarian crisis across the sub-continent, as potentially hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans will be forced to return to a country where there are few economic prospects for them.

Zepha is arguing that ZEP holders have a legitimate expectation of being granted permanent residence in SA, as most are working, paying tax, and raising their children here.

In an earlier court challenge, Zepha took the Department of Home Affairs to court over a directive that threatened to lock ZEP holders’ bank accounts in SA. That directive was withdrawn in December 2021.

Zepha says it was formed in 2019 “to defend the interests of ZEP holders in South Africa who are often victims of xenophobic violence, and persecution by the South African government as well as hate groups in South Africa who target Zimbabwean nationals”.

It’s also been reported that Zimbabweans are being charged as foreigners in SA hospitals, and of businesses being harassed by Operation Dudula members attempting to force out “illegal immigrants” and then selling those jobs to South Africans. – Newzim