ZEP extension: ‘Grateful’ Zimbabwe says it was willing to welcome back its citizens from South Africa

The Embassy of Zimbabwe earlier this month said around 10 000 Zimbabweans had applied for assistance to return home when the special dispensation was set to end in June. File Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency(ANA)
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The Zimbabwean government said it had taken note of the judgment by the High Court in Pretoria which ruled that the Department of Home Affairs’ decision to summarily terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) was unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid.

However, in welcoming the ruling, the government of Zimbabwe said it was ready and willing to welcome its citizens who opted to return home after South African Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the ZEP would not be extended.

Speaking to television channel Newzroom Afrika on Thursday, Richard Mahomva, Zimbabwe’s director of international communications said his government had taken note of the “phenomenal judicial position”.

He said Harare would gladly take part in the consultation processes prescribed by the Pretoria court as South African authorities seek a solution in the 12 months extension given by the court.

The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit grants its holders and their children temporary legal status to live, work, and study in South Africa. File Picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

“You would recall that when our two countries had the joint permanent national commission, this issue featured very prominently last year. So, at an inter-ministerial level I think there should be a conversation (between) our minister of home affairs and comrade Motsoaledi. I think that is something that has a technical underpinning which see our ministers engaging,” he said in the televised interview.

“You should also recall the government of Zimbabwe has made it a matter of common record, that it was ready to receive Zimbabweans that are willing to come back home because, I find it as a token of gratitude, to say you have hosted our people and if your systems can no longer fully accommodate, we are equally ready,” said Mahomva.

“I think this generates an ongoing conversation that prepares the Zimbabwean side, but also facilitating for the South African government to follow the law with regards to adherence to the Immigration Act.”

He said the court ruling sets a precedence for future policy-making as far as immigration on the continent of Africa is concerned.

“This is coming against the backdrop of the architecture of the African continental free-trade area system,” said Mahomva.

“So, this is also cause us to construct analytical juxtapositions of what this in the context of the African continental free-trade area, what it means in terms of the freedom of labour and services across the African continent, particularly in the SADC.“

The ruling made by the court on Wednesday came after the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) challenged Motsoaledi’s decision, which was announced last year, to discontinue the special dispensation for around 180,000 Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

The ZEP is a special permit that grants its holders and their children temporary legal status to live, work, and study in South Africa.

This was introduced by the government to cope with the influx of undocumented Zimbabweans.

Earlier this month, the Embassy of Zimbabwe in South Africa said around 10,000 Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa had applied for assistance from their government to return home and resettle as the (ZEP) was set to expire at the end of June.

At the time, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to South Africa, David Hamadziripi said about 10,000 had heeded his office’s call for Zimbabweans seeking to relocate by end of June to register and be helped.

“The government (of Zimbabwe) has indicated that it will facilitate the smooth return of those who wish to return home, and we will offer assistance to those who indicate that they would wish to have that assistance,” said Hamadziripi.