Chitando pushes for permanent residency for ZEP holders

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Advocate Simba Chitando says he is continuing to push for permanent residency for Zimbabwe nationals who are holders of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) dispensation.

The special dispensation was due to end on June 3 but has been extended to December 31.

The ZEP is a special permit issued in terms of the Immigration Act that allows its holders and their children temporary legal status to live, work and study in South Africa.

Chitando, who is representing the Zimbabwe Permit Holders Association during the legal battle with Home Affairs at the High Court in Pretoria, says the extension only provides temporary relief for permit holders.

He argues that holders of the permit should be granted permanent residency in their challenge against the decision to terminate the special dispensation by the Minister.

Chitando says many ZEP holders do not qualify for the relief granted by the Minister. “It doesn’t deal with the underlying problem which is the legality of the Minister’s decision and the rights of ZEP holders to be in the country going forward. The decision itself speaks to the waivers. It speaks to several applications that are being made by ZEP holders and our issue is that many ZEP holders do not qualify for what the Minister calls mainstream visas and the only real relief would seek is the right to apply for permanent residency in the country.”

VIDEO: Interview with Advocate Simba Chitando:

‘Humane gesture’

Meanwhile, Helen Suzman Foundation has welcomed Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi’s extension of the ZEP.

A researcher at the Foundation, Divashnee Naidoo says, “It indeed represents a humane gesture and provides a respite for those 178 000 ZEP holders who at the end of this month, in just a few days were going to face the impossible choice of either becoming an illegal migrant or being forced from homes and lives that they’ve known for well over a decade.”

Motsoaledi says the Department was forced to extend the validity of the ZEP, after receiving an influx of waiver applications. In a statement, the Department says the Minister has approved thousands of waiver applications of Zimbabwean nationals affected by the termination of the special dispensation.

This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of visa and waiver applications that need to be processed.

The six-month extension to December 31 ensures that no holder of a valid permit may be arrested, ordered to depart, or be detained for purposes of deportation.

Motsoaledi says with only three weeks before the termination of the dispensation, the Department had no option but to offer an extension.

“In May and June, from the beginning of May, we started seeing a very high increase in the number of people who were applying and as I’m speaking now, we are getting between 1000 to 1500 applications every single day. Unfortunately, it is not out of our making. It’s the decision of those people who were offered this opportunity to apply. They decided to apply last minute. We had to be pragmatic and practical and look at the time left. We are left with only three weeks towards the end of this exemption permit. We had no other option but to extend.”