The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) scheme is the “largest case of fraud and theft ever committed by the government of one country over nationals of its neighbouring country in African history”, according to court papers filed by the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders Association (ZEPHA).
The association is asking the Gauteng High Court to grant permanent residence to roughly 200 000 ZEP holders.
The ZEP system, which allows Zimbabweans to work in SA, was suspended in December 2021, then extended until the end of 2022, to give permit holders more time to apply for other permits or else face deportation or voluntary repatriation to Zimbabwe.
One of the reasons cited by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for suspending the ZEP scheme is its cost.
This is contradicted by ZEPHA chair Sandra Chinyanya, who argues in an affidavit before the court that the DHA has been raking in cash since it introduced the permit scheme for Zimbabweans more than a decade ago.
Deposing for the DHA, Director-General Livhuwani Makhode says an amount of R145.8 million was requested from National Treasury to start the special programme of granting exemption, but only R15 million was allocated to deal with the exemption process for SADC (Southern African Development Community) nationals.
This small allocation was evidence that granting exemptions to SADC nationals seeking asylum was unsustainable, says Makhode in an affidavit.
Chinyanya replies that roughly 200 000 Zimbabweans had to pay R1 090 each for the ZEP, and R890 for its predecessor, the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP), making a total of R374.2 million – and that doesn’t count unsuccessful applicants, nor the taxes paid in SA by successful applicants over the last decade or more.
SA is financially exploiting ZEP holders, says Chinyana.
The respondents in the case are the minister and DG for Home Affairs, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the cabinet.
“This fact, together with the allegations of corruption in the Zondo Commission, which proved corrupt money [was] being made by State officials from migration, begs the question what happened to the total estimated amount of R374.2 million successful exemption holders paid for their permits, and why [Home Affairs] approached National Treasury to begin with.”
The permit scheme is a grotesque shakedown of an ethnic minority, “no different from fascists of old, shamelessly cashing in on potentially billions of rands from mostly Zimbabwean migrants,” says Advocate Simba Chitando, who is representing ZEPHA, in a strongly worded statement.
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