Cape Town — Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has announced that Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) and Lesotho Exemption Permit (LEP) holders can now remain in South Africa until the end of 2025. This is a change from the previous expiration date of December 31, 2023, which would have affected over 178,000 Zimbabweans.
Motsoaledi stated, “I urge all affected Zimbabwe and Lesotho nationals to take advantage of the opportunities provided for new exemption permits through VFS Global.” However, for those who have already applied for waivers or visas, there is no need to reapply. “VFS Global has been instructed to expedite the process for new exemption permits, and a dedicated team will be established to handle applications,” Motsoaledi added.
Nevertheless, Motsoaledi emphasized that “those who did not apply for the waivers will have to go to VFS and start the application process from scratch. It is not my fault; we have given them the opportunity and extended it several times, as you know. Therefore, I urge all affected Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals to utilize this window of opportunity to apply for new exemption permits through VFS Global.”
Motsoaledi’s announcement regarding the extensions comes as a response to the legal action taken by the non-profit organization, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), in an urgent application to protect the rights of ZEP holders. Unfortunately, the application was dismissed.
Despite the multiple extensions of the ZEP program, initially implemented in 2009 and extended in 2014 and 2017, Motsoaledi clarified that it was not incorporated into the Immigration Act. The act grants the Home Affairs Minister in South Africa broad powers to grant permanent residence rights to a specific category of foreigners for a specified or unspecified period when special circumstances occur.