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Helen Suzman Foundation appeal against ZEPs ruling faces misinformation campaign

by Staff reporter
21 Sep 2023 at 11:06hrs | Views
The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), a human rights organization that successfully challenged the South African government's plan to revoke Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) by December 2022, has revealed that their second application opposing the appeal request made by South Africa's Minister of Home Affairs has become the target of malicious and dangerous misinformation campaigns.

This revelation comes in the wake of recent court proceedings on September 18, 2023, in Pretoria's Gauteng High Court, where South African Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the Director General (DG) of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), Livhuwani Tommy Makhode, argued that their government had no valid grounds to continue granting ZEPs, as they were initially introduced as a temporary solution.

Motsoaledi and Makhode are now seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal to overturn a previous judgment that declared the termination of the ZEP program unlawful and unconstitutional. The judgment for that case is currently pending.

However, HSF has disclosed that it submitted a separate application, which has not yet been heard by the court, opposing the appeal request made by South Africa's Home Affairs Ministry. They expressed concern about how their application has been the target of unfounded and dangerous misinformation campaigns on social media.

HSF clarified, "The campaigns, orchestrated by unidentified individuals on social media, have attempted to incite violence against HSF's staff, falsely accusing them of obstructing the Minister from shaping migration policy. In reality, neither the initial review of the decision to terminate the ZEP nor the application to maintain it pending the appeal process has anything to do with such claims."

The human rights organization emphasized that in both applications, HSF's sole objective has been to safeguard the fundamental rights of ZEP holders, individuals who have lawfully resided in South Africa for the past 14 years. HSF explained, "These individuals deserve fair and rational government decision-making and should not be left in legal limbo while the Minister pursues the appeal process."

HSF further emphasized, "Although the focal point of this matter may be on ZEP holders, it is crucial to understand that government decision-making without consultation, due process, and valid reasoning jeopardizes the rights of all citizens."

The previous judgment had extended ZEPs until June 30, 2024, offering legal protection to approximately 178,000 Zimbabweans, permitting them to reside, work, and attend school in South Africa.

During the aforementioned court proceedings, the lawyer representing the Home Affairs Minister and the DG, Advocate William Mokhare, argued before Judges Colleen Collis, Mandlenkosi Motha, and Gcina Malindi that the ZEPs, initially introduced in 2009, had always been intended as a temporary solution to enable Zimbabweans who had fled political and economic turmoil in their homeland to live and work in South Africa "until the government was satisfied" that the program could be terminated. Mokhare asserted that the South African government had "no valid reason" for the continued existence of ZEPs since the initial conditions that prompted their establishment were no longer applicable. He contended that the decision regarding ZEPs was a policy-driven decision rather than an administrative one.

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