The Home Affairs Department has extended the validity of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) to the 31st of December 2023.
Initially the permit was set to expire at the end of June after the government announced in 2021 that it will discontinue the system.
The move will leave almost 180 000 permit holders undocumented.
Under the six months extension, no holder of a valid ZEP may be arrested; ordered to depart the country or be detained for deportation.
The holder of a valid ZEP will also be allowed to enter or leave South Africa.
Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, says he is considering and approving waiver applications on a daily basis.
“Unlike before since May 2023, VFS Global is now receiving between 1 000 – 1 500 visa and waiver applications of the affected Zimbabwean nationals daily,” says Motsoaledi.
The Minister adds that more officials have been deployed to assist in the processing of the applications.
Advocate Simba Chitando of the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association first lodged a court action against Home Affairs in a bid to grand ZEP holders permanent residency.
In April, the High Court in Pretoria reserved judgment in the association’s bid to declare government’s 2021 decision set aside and declared unlawful.
The organisation also wants a declaratory order to allow ZEP holders to at least apply for permanent residency in South Africa.
Chitando says while they welcome the extension of the permits, the initial problem still lingers.
He says ZEP holders are still filled with much uncertainty on the matter that is now before court and this has been detrimental to many Zimbabwean nationals.
Chitando lamented how some of the children of the ZEP holders could not register for their matric this year due to the permit deadline.
“We have employers not knowing whether their staff would be legal in the country, all the restaurants, schools that employ Zimbabweans, they didn’t know if they could potentially lose their staff,” says Chitando.