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Sleepless Nights for Zimbabweans over Termination of Exemption Permit

Umm Muhammed Umar

The Zimbabwean Immigration Federation is taking the Department of Home Affairs to court over the termination of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP). This is the second lawsuit the department is facing over the looming termination of the ZEP, after the Helen Suzman Foundation announced in June, that they would be taking the government to court for discontinuing the permits. Radio Islam spoke to Luke Mufaro, chairperson of the Zimbabwean Immigration Federation.

The ZEP allows Zimbabweans to work, attend school, and utilize hospitals and banks in South Africa, as a South African national would.

Mufaro said that Home Affairs had cited the high rates of unemployment in South Africa for terminating the ZEP.  He added, however, “But that didn’t make sense. The number of ZEP (holders) was apparently 178 000. In a country of 56 million that literally translates to about 0.3%.” Mufaro said the South African government had not encouraged Zimbabweans in the country to apply for asylum. Rather, if an employer has hired a Zimbabwean national to work for him, he would have to explain why he could not hire a South African. Mufaro said, “Any domestic worker or transport truck driver who wishes to renew their permit will be rejected.” He criticized the Department of Home Affairs, saying, “And it is it is quite wrong for Home Affairs to say: “we will deport you if you don’t get anything”, because before we had these permits, a lot of our members had asylum papers, and they left Zimbabwe on the grounds that they were persecuted by some opposition leader or thugs on political grounds.”  Mufaro said the decision was reached without any consultation, breaching the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

According to Mafuro’s estimation, close to a million people will be affected by the government’s decision to terminate the ZEP. He said that was because while there were 178 000 ZEP holders, those were supporting many more people, both in South Africa and in Zimbabwe. He said, “They’ve got families, they’ve got kids.” He added, “when they are deporting, we want to know will (they) take the whole family or they will take only one person?” This is as many Zimbabweans have married South Africans, and have children. Mafuro projected that the whole matter was a humanitarian disaster in the making.

Mafuro had described Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsaledi’s, withdrawal of the exemptions as reminiscent of the brutal international migration policy adopted by the apartheid regime. He said, “it’s inhumane when the minister kicks people back who left Zimbabwe on asylum, and all of a sudden, they give back their asylum, and then they’re supposed to be deported back to the country…… those people are living in fear…. they are really having sleepless nights.”

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