The Pretoria high court has dismissed urgent applications by lobbyists and holders of the special Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) to overturn the decision not to extend the programme for a third time, the home affairs department said on Wednesday.
The pressure groups, African Amity and a collective of ZEP visa holders, last week approached the courts on an urgent basis seeking an order to compel the department to issue ZEP holders with visas, pending the review of the minister’s decision by the courts.
The department argued that the applicants in both matters failed to comply with the practice manual and directives, and lacked urgency.
The court order comes just days ahead of the expiry of the special dispensation permits of thousands of Zimbabweans on December 31, thrusting many into the abyss with limited access to key services and facing possible deportation.
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi welcomed the order but warned that the ministry expects that litigation over its decision is far from over. He said the department would defend any “spurious court actions” aimed at undermining the decision.
The ministry has come under harsh criticism from migration and human rights activists for its decision not to extend the ZEP for a third time, after 12 years.
Holders of the permit have one year to lodge applications for other permits if they are to avoid suspension of crucial services such as banking. The government has granted the nearly 180,000 Zimbabweans who hold the permit a grace period of 12 months to migrate to other mainstream visas.
But in terms of a home affairs directive dated December 7, all companies, employers, learning institutions and banks should terminate agreements and services with permit holders if they do not have proof that they have applied for other permits or visas via VFS, the front-end visa handling operator.