By-South African Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi blamed officials from his office for the confusion that engulfed the withdrawal of a directive that could have seen special permit holders from Zimbabwe lose their jobs, bank accounts and other services by December 31.
He told the media in South Africa on Tuesday that no rescission was made on the recent cabinet decision which resolved that they would not be renewed when they expire on December 31.
According to sources in Pretoria, Home Affairs Directive No. 10 of 2021 would have seen ZEP holders who failed to apply for the visas face the closure of their bank accounts, termination of employment, loss of places at academic institutions and other essential services.
Financial institutions in South Africa including banks had already advised ZEP holders to produce new permits or visa application receipt for accounts to remain active. Lawyers representing the ZEP holders successfully filed an urgent court application on December 7 against the directive issued on November 29 following the cabinet decision.
A group of Civil Society Organisations have also petitioned Motsoaledi arguing that the cabinet decision had thrown into disarray the ZEP holders’ lives appealing for the withdrawal of the resolution on humanitarian grounds.
However, Zimbabwean Ambassador to South Africa David Hamadziripi advised the ZEP holders to comply with the South African cabinet decision.
Motsoaledi said his department takes the blame for the confusion.
“It is true, the confusion erupted from the department, from officials in the department. They issued a circular purporting to clarify a Cabinet decision. The Cabinet decision is very clear: it does not need any circular to clarify it.
“What has been withdrawn, and I think that caused the confusion now, yesterday (Monday), I instructed that the circular be withdrawn – because I don’t see any purpose it is serving,” he said.
The minister said the circular was not even supposed to be issued.
“It was serving no purpose but just causing confusion. The Cabinet decision was clear. It was outlined by the Minister in the Presidency (Mondli) Gungubele on what the decision was about. Matters should have rested there, and they indeed must rest there,” he said.
Hamadziripi said: “The only advice I have for ZEP holders is that they should comply with the decision of the government of South Africa concerning the regularisation of their stay in the country following the non-extension of the special permits.”
The lawyer representing the ZEP holders, Advocate Simba Chitando, also took time to clarify the situation saying the victory was on the withdrawal of Directive 10 of 2021, which he described as oppressive.
He said on October 12 this year, the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit Holders and African Amity filed an application before the Pretoria High Court to assert their rights.
Motsoaledi filed a notice to oppose the application but did not file an opposing affidavit in the matter. He said the cabinet resolution on November 24 was made before Motsoaledi had filed his opposing papers to the earlier application.
Home Affairs director general Livhuwani Tommy Makhode issued Directive No.10 of 2021 requiring all ZEP holders to apply for mainstream visas by the end of this month.
“On December 7, 2021, my clients filed an urgent application, to be heard on December 14, 2021, to set aside the draconian November 29 Directive 10 of 2021 issued by the Director of Home Affairs,” Chitando said.
The home affairs department withdrew the Directive No. 10 on December 13 and Chitando withdrew the application challenging the directive because it had been withdrawn a day before. He also reiterated that the November 24 directive remains.
“We are still challenging that decision and seeking permanent residency for ZEP holders. We celebrated the withdrawal of the oppressive November 29, 2021 directive,” he said.
Meanwhile, the coalition of CSOs said Zimbabwe remained a country in turmoil which continues to experience serious economic and political challenges and violence.
“Further, given that this special dispensation covers a timespan of over a decade, many Zimbabweans have built their families, lives and homes in South Africa.
“Estimates indicate that up to half a million children will be affected by this decision resulting in severe trauma through uprooting their lives in South Africa and exposing them to trauma and suffering in Zimbabwe, undermining the best interests of the child principle enshrined in South Africa’s constitution,” the CSOs argued.
They also argued that ZEP holders had contributed to the South African economy, communities and society with the decision affecting the whole country.
The CSOs also demanded a written response by no later than close of business today (December 17, 2021).