Some Zimbabwean nationals based in South Africa have criticised their compatriots who recently took that government to court, asking to be declared permanent residents as their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits expire on 31 December 2021.
The group which took the SA government to court falls under the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association, which reportedly represents about 250 000 Zimbabweans.
They asked the Gauteng High Court to direct the Minister of Home Affairs to issue them with South African ID documents on the grounds that they are permanent residents in terms of the Immigration Act read together with the Identification Act.
They also asked the court to review and set aside the decision by Home Affairs not to renew residency permits “knowing that the holders of the permit have known no other home besides South Africa for more than 10 years”.
However, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Ngabutho Nicholas Mabhena, believes this is not a wise move, as they expect an announcement from the government anytime from now to renew the exemption permits.
Mabhena asserted that the documentation of Zimbabweans in South Africa has always been a product of negotiations and not through litigation. He said:
We respect the decision of those that have taken the South African government to court even though we do not agree with them because the timing is wrong.
We have been negotiating since 2002 when the South African government agreed to issue Zimbabweans with asylum documents.
In 2010, Zimbabweans were issued with special permits which were renewed in 2014 and 2017. Now they are to expire on December 31, 2021.
All over these years, it has been through negotiations for the South African government to renew these permits.
We don’t think it’s a wise move at this late stage when we anticipate that an announcement is going to be made soon, for anyone to approach the courts.
They should have waited for the South African government to make an announcement on the future of these permits before considering going to court.
Mabhena is also a member of the executive committee of the African Diaspora Forum (ADF), a pro-migrant organisation.