Thousands of Zimbabweans Demand Citizenship in South Africa

The Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Holders Association, representing roughly 250 000 Zimbabweans in SA, has asked the Gauteng High Court to declare them permanent residents, as their Zimbabwe Exemption Permits expire in December 2021.

The group of Zimbabweans is also asking the court to direct the Minister of Home Affairs to issue them with SA ID documents on the grounds that they are permanent residents of SA in terms of the Immigration Act read together with the Identification Act.

They are also asking 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”.

Zimbabwean Exemption Permit holders have a constitutional right to an equal path to citizenship in SA, and that right is being withheld, the association says.

In April 2009, cabinet approved what was known as the Dispensation of Zimbabweans Project (DZP), allowing permit holders to work, conduct business and study in SA.

According to Home Affairs, 295 000 Zimbabweans applied for the permit and just over 245 000 were issued.

This was an attempt to regularise the residence status of those Zimbabweans residing illegally in SA due to political and economic instability at home.