The Department of Home Affairs provides clarity on the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit

In 2009, a decision was taken by Cabinet to implement the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP). The objectives of the DZP included providing amnesty to Zimbabwean nationals who were in possession of fraudulently obtained South African immigration documents and curbing their deportation. The DZP expired on 31 December 2014 and was replaced by the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP). The ZSP was valid for a period of three years, until it expired on 31 December 2017.

6 Dec 2021 2 min read Employment Law Alert Article

At a glance

  • The Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP) provided amnesty to Zimbabwean nationals with fraudulent South African immigration documents and aimed to prevent their deportation. It expired in 2014 and was replaced by the Zimbabwean Special Dispensation Permit (ZSP), which expired in 2017.
  • The current permit, the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP), will expire on December 31, 2021. A directive stated that no further extensions will be granted to ZEP holders.
  • ZEP holders have a grace period until December 31, 2022, to legalize their status in South Africa by applying for an appropriate visa. Employers must allow ZEP holders to continue working if they provide proof of a visa application, and ZEP holders can travel without restriction until the end of 2022.

The ZSP was replaced by the current Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) which expires on 31 December 2021. Approximately 180,000 Zimbabwean nationals are in possession of a ZEP.

Despite the history of these extensions, on 29 November 2021, a directive was issued by the Director General of the Department of Home Affairs confirming Cabinet’s decision that no further extensions would be granted to Zimbabwean nationals who are holders of a ZEP.

A grace period of 12 months (i.e. until 31 December 2022) has, however, been granted to all ZEP holders to provide them with sufficient time to legalise their status in South Africa through the mechanisms provided for in terms of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002 (Act). ZEP holders must therefore apply for a visa, appropriate to their circumstances, in accordance with the Act, and ensure that their applications meet the applicable requirements. All ZEP holders whose applications are unsuccessful will be required to leave South Africa or risk being deported.

While all ZEP’s will expire on 31 December 2021, all organisations, including employers, must allow ZEP holders to continue rendering their services. This is, however, conditional upon the ZEP holder furnishing proof that a visa application has been submitted to Visa Facilitation Services Global (VFS), in the form of a VFS receipt.

In addition, all ZEP holders must be allowed to travel to and from South Africa, without restriction, until 31 December 2022.

In light of the above decision, all ZEP holders must apply to VFS for an appropriate visa that will confirm their legal status in South Africa without delay. In addition, employers who currently employ ZEP holders should inform their employees of the implications of the directive and encourage them to apply for an appropriate work permit, failing which their capacity to remain employed in South Africa will be affected.

The information and material published on this website is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. We make every effort to ensure that the content is updated regularly and to offer the most current and accurate information. Please consult one of our lawyers on any specific legal problem or matter. We accept no responsibility for any loss or damage, whether direct or consequential, which may arise from reliance on the information contained in these pages. Please refer to our full terms and conditions. Copyright © 2024 Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr. All rights reserved. For permission to reproduce an article or publication, please contact us