Factsheet on the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs)

The Claim: The South African government extended the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) by two years until November 29, 2025.
The Verdict: claim verdict

The South African government extended the Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEPs) by two years until November 29, 2025 on December 1, 2023, providing Zimbabweans living in South Africa with relief from the uncertainty surrounding their immigration status.

The ZEPs were supposed to expire on December 31, 2023, but they were extended until the end of June 2024.

The validity of the ZEPs has now been extended to November 29, 2025, giving holders of the permits additional time to apply for new permits.

Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, South African Minister of Home Affairs, stated that this development means that approximately 178 000 Zimbabwean nationals will be covered for two years under Section 32 2 (b) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002. 

ZEP holders will be able to apply for new permits, work, look for work, and conduct business in South Africa.

Holders of the exemption permit, however, will not be eligible to apply for permanent residence under Sections 25, 26, and 27 of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 or any other provisions in any other law, regardless of the length of their stay in South Africa. 

How did the ZEPs  start

  • The ZEP began in 2009 as the Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) by then Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to legalise the many Zimbabweans who had fled the country due to the country’s political and socioeconomic situation.
  • The DZP was renewed in 2014 as the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP) after the Home Affairs Minister granted Zimbabweans the opportunity to apply between October 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014 for either an extension of the exemption that had been granted to them or to reapply for such exemption if their previous applications under the DZP had been unsuccessful.
  • The ZEP was renewed after the ZSP was granted for the period ending December 31, 2017.
  • The ZEP issued in 2017 differed from the DZP and ZSP in that the Home Affairs Minister only allowed those who had been granted permits under the DZP or ZSP to apply for or renew their exemptions for another four years until December 31, 2021.
  • The latter exemption was extended for a year and will expire on December 31, 2022.
  • When the ZEP was set to expire, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), a South African human rights organization, filed a constitutional court challenge in June 2022, asking the Minister of Home Affairs to grant a blanket fourth exemption to ZEP holders, claiming that the termination was unconstitutional.
  • The Constitutional Court directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to extend the ZEPS until June 30, 2024. 
  • The South African government then decided in December to extend the ZEPs until November 2025. 
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