Court rules South Africa must reconsider ending work, residency permits for 200,000 Zimbabwe nationals

Around 178,000 Zimbabwe nationals live in South Africa under a work exemption that is now set for termination.

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — A South African court on Wednesday ruled against the government and ordered it to reconsider its decision to terminate the special permits allowing nearly 200,000 Zimbabwe nationals to live and work in the country.

The government’s decision was set to force Zimbabweans to return home if they didn’t obtain regular work visas, even if they have children who were born in South Africa and are South African citizens.

A vendor counts her money after making a sale in Harare, Thursday ,June, 2, 2022. Rampant inflation is making it increasingly difficult for people in Zimbabwe to make ends meet. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

In its ruling, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria said the Department of Home Affairs’ decision in 2022 to end the special exemption for citizens from neighboring Zimbabwe was “unlawful” and “unconstitutional” because it didn’t follow “a fair process” of consultation.

The permits were extended until at least June 28 next year under the court ruling.

The department initially set a deadline of June 30 this year — Friday — for the termination of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit system. That deadline was recently extended to the end of the year.

Around 178,000 Zimbabwe nationals live in South Africa under the scheme. It was introduced in 2010 in an attempt to deal with a surge in migration by Zimbabweans escaping the economic woes of their home country, which have persisted.

The Helen Suzman Foundation NGO and a group advocating for the rights of migrants in South Africa took the government’s Department of Home Affairs to court over its decision.

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