The court found that the process used to make this decision did not comply with the relevant law and gave government until the end of 2024 to reconsider and fix the issue.
The Helen Suzman Foundation, which filed the law suit in June last year, declared the judgment of huge significance for the approximately 178 000 Zimbabwean exemption permit holders who have lived in South Africa legally for almost 15 years. It added that, importantly, the judgement also upheld and safeguarded the rights of every South African.
In response, Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi said he would challenge the judgment, as it had set a “dangerous precedent”.
According to a statement by Home Affairs, the minister believed the decision he had made had been correct and took into consideration all the interests and rights implicated, including those of children.
The department also questioned whether public participation was necessary when a decision of this nature, which affected only a specific category of persons (in this case the affected Zimbabwean nationals) was taken.
Christo van der Rheede, CEO of Agri SA, welcomed the verdict, saying it was good news for farmers employing the Zimbabwean nationals permanently and seasonally.
“Many Zimbabwean exemption permit holders have been working on farms for many years. They bring a lot of skill and have made a huge contribution to the success of the agriculture sector over the years.”
To make it easier for these permit holders to stay, Agri SA had previously asked for a blanket waiver on the skills qualification and Department of Employment and Labour letter within the immigration Act of general work visas to be extended to Zimbabwean exemption permit holders, as such requirements had not been placed on Zimbabweans when the permits were originally issued.
Agri SA said it believed expecting the same group to be eligible for different visas was prejudicial.
Agri SA also suggested an alternative whereby Zimbabwean exemption permit holders be allowed to stay with just proof of work if they received an offer of a permanent job.