War Of Words Over ZEPs 
3 October 2022
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By- The South African government has ’ dismissed reports saying he extended the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) to June 2023 as a strategy to help the ruling Zanu PF rig elections scheduled for next year.

SA home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has

Motsoaledi extended ZEPs in late August, arguing that the department had received few applications by Zimbabwean nationals for ordinary visas at that time.

Motsoaledi had, throughout the year, vowed not to renew the expiring ZEPs, meaning its holders would have to return home at the end of 2022.

Civil society organisation, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), which had launched a legal challenge against the planned cancellation, said it would continue with the court fight. It added; 

There is now some speculation that the reason for this most recent six-month extension is that it is a sop to Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu PF: delaying the return of those who fled its murderous policies until after the next elections, scheduled for early 2023, means they cannot vote against Zanu.

In response, Minister Motsoaledi dismissed the suggestion as a “ridiculous” and “bizarre conspiracy theory”. He said in a statement:

… if HSF’s worry is the outcome of elections in Zimbabwe, then in that event, the Minister publicly challenges HSF to use its massive resources to mobilise all the Zimbabwean nationals in South Africa go and participate in the 2023 elections.

In this manner the HSF will be putting their money where their mouth is. After all, it is a democratic obligation of a citizen of any country to vote in any elections in order to influence the direction that their country takes.

South Africa’s ruling ANC party has faced criticism for not being tougher with authorities in Harare who face allegations of human rights abuses, electoral fraud and crackdowns against the opposition.

Cancellation of the ZEP would affect some 178 000 holders. 

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT) recently estimated that 700 000 Zimbabweans were based in South Africa.