/ 25 November 2021

No extension to expiring Zimbabwean exemption permits — cabinet

Migrants Queue Outside Home Affairs In Pta For Permits. Madelene Cronjé
Nowhere to go: Zimbabwean special permit holders outside Home Affairs. (Madelene Cronjé)

The South African government has decided not to extend Zimbabwean exemption permits, which expire in December, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele told a media briefing on Thursday on the outcomes of a weekly cabinet meeting the previous day.

He said holders of the special permits would be given a grace period of 12 months after their expiry to apply for other permits appropriate to their particular status or situation.

“At the expiry of this 12-month grace period, those who are not successful will have to depart the republic or be deported,” Gungubele said.   

Gungubele noted that South Africa had issued the first Zimbabwean special dispensation permits in 2009 to people fleeing turmoil in the neighbouring country, which were valid for five years. In 2014 these permits were extended by three years and, when they expired in 2017, they were replaced by the current Zimbabwean exemption permits, which are valid until the end of this year.

Asked if the South African government had been in touch with the Zimbabwean government about its decision, Gungubele said he could not provide comment on that at this stage.

The department of home affairs last week issued a statement debunking what it called  misleading news, purportedly emanating from Zimbabwe, which suggested the exemption permits had been extended for five years.

On Thursday, Gungubele said the cabinet had also approved the further extension to 15 December of South Africa’s national state of disaster — which was first declared in March last year in response to Covid-19 and had been set to expire on 15 November.

“These measures continue to assist in the country’s fight to stop the spread of Covid-19,” Gungubele said.  

The Disaster Management Act provides for a national state of disaster to be extended by the co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister by notice in the Government Gazette for one month at a time before it lapses.

The cabinet had also approved the reconfiguration of the electoral system to include independent candidates, Gungubele said, adding that a report by the ministerial advisory committee presented policy options to remedy shortcomings in the Electoral Act. 

The electoral systems reforms were initiated after the Constitutional Court declared in 2020 that the Electoral Act was unconstitutional, because it only provided for the election of members of the national assembly and provincial legislature to be conducted through political parties.

Gungubele said the cabinet had also noted coalition arrangements recently reached by political parties after 1 November local government elections resulted in several hung municipalities with no outright winner. 

“The cabinet applauded political parties for the decorous manner in which they conducted themselves during the local government elections and coalition negotiations. It is a process that seems to have gone peacefully in our view,” he said.