Fresh developments on validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs)

Ruling was successfully challenged in the Pretoria High Court. Picture: GroundUp.
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Following landmark rulings and repeated court procedures, here’s the latest on the validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits. Back in September 2021, the South African Minister of Home Affairs terminated the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) scheme.

For those of you unfamiliar with the validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits, ZEP is a scheme that continued on from the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation (ZSP) permit, which allowed qualifying Zimbabweans to remain in South Africa for an extra four years, according to VFS Global.


Earlier this year, on 28 June 2023, the Pretoria High Court overturned the controversial decision to terminate ZEPs. The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) and the Consortium for Refugees and Migrants in South Africa (CORMSA) challenged the ruling, according to SA Visas.

With ZEP termination overturned, this has raised many questions around the current validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits. It is believed there are around 178 000 ZEP permit holders still in South Africa.


The South African Department of Home Affairs was challenged on the grounds that they did not comply with the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA). Specifically, there was no reasonable opportunity to make representations before taking the decision. This rendered the decision procedurally unfair.

Accordingly, it was unanimously ruled that the termination of ZEP was “unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid.”As for the validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits, the Pretoria High Court ordered that all ZEPs be automatically extended for one full year pending the Department of Home Affair’s appeal.

Practically, what that means for the validity of Zimbabwean Exemption Permits, is that ZEPs expiring on 31 December 2021, are now 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.

Source: The South African