President Ramaphosa sued by Zimbabweans working in South Africa, cabinet ministers in trouble

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ZIMBABWE Exemption Permits (Zep) holders who work in South Africa have amended their court application suing South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and his cabinet for cancelling their right to stay and work in their neighbouring country.

In their latest court application filed in the High Court of Pretoria on Wednesday this week, the Zep Holders Association (Zepha) cites Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi as the first respondent while his director general Livhuwani Makhode is the second respondent.

Ramaphosa and all his cabinet ministers are in trouble as they are cited as the third and fourth respondents in the lawsuit, respectively.

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The Zep holders are challenging the decision and subsequent directives arguing this prejudiced them and the South African economy.

According to court papers filed by the association’s lawyer Simba Chitando, the Zimbabweans had a legitimate expectation to be eligible for the rights of permanent residency.

They further argue that the South African cabinet’s decision was in violation of international law.

In his founding affidavit deposed in support of the latest court application, Darlington Chiuta, one of the Zepha representatives, argued that without mainstream visas, the children of the affected Zimbabweans would be forced to abandon school.

He argued that the children would be forced to start an educational programme they were not accustomed to, interrupting their current studies.

The Zep holders, Chiuta argues, have lived in South Africa lawfully for over a decade and made significant investments.

“This includes physical property (fully paid for and being paid off), they have unemployment insurance, and several other financial investments they would be forced to discontinue should they fail to migrate to other mainstream visas,”reads part of the court documents.

“Practically, they would forfeit (sic) the unemployment (UIF) benefits after they are forced to stop payments. They would be forced to sell property they cannot keep if they are forced to leave the country.”

Chiuta further states that the Zep holders have been denied administrative action accusing the South African government of repeatedly ignoring attempts by the holders to find clarity on their future in the neighbouring country.

“They made decisions that are calculated to prevent them from the lawful path to residency in the country, their decisions are impossible for Zep holders to comply with, some of the decisions are self-contradictory, unreasonable, procedurally unfair, and strikingly irrational,” Chiuta added.

He added that Zimbabweans have been treated poorly by the South African government inviting condemnation from a number of human rights organisations, citing that Zep holders, and their families, consider themselves part of the South African community.

“They know South Africa as their only home, and cannot imagine being uprooted from the country, especially in the ugly manner the respondents intend,” Chiuta said.

“The respondents’ decision took Zep holders by surprise because despite several attempts to dialogue, no information suggesting the termination of the Zep was provided.”

He said South African institutions were prone to suffering economic prejudice as several financial service providers have products and contractual relationships with various Zep holders, estimated at several billions of rands.

The termination of permits, he argued, could cause damage to the South African economy and its status as a safe investment destination.

“Zep holders provided the South African economy with the skills necessary for its productivity…No business can find South African replacements for Zep holders who have the skills, and experience in the respective positions, to maintain the same level of productivity,” Chiuta wrote in court documents.

Zimbabweans have been in South Africa as permanent residents under conditions set by the government which, however, limited their rights of residency to more than 10 years.

Many Zep holders expected their rights to residency to be extended as it was before.

Chiuta submitted to the court that granting Zep permanent residency in South Africa would be consistent with internationally recognised principles of migration.

“South Africa is bound by provisions of the Africa Free Trade Agreement.

Granting Zep holders permanent residency indefinitely, which would be consistent with the spirit of free movement of people,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zepha this week issued a statement seeking financial assistance to aid their legal battle against the South African government.

“Zepha is requesting financial support from the Zimbabwean business community to assist with what is the biggest case in South African courts at the moment directly affecting thousands of Zimbabweans and indirectly affecting millions.

“The Department of Home Affairs has an unlimited legal budget. To balance the scales any support from the Zimbabwean business community and prominent Zimbabweans would be appreciated,” the association’s management said.

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