The upcoming Cold War with Zimbabwe

Relations between South Africa and Zimbabwe appear to be deteriorating at an alarming rate following a decision by the Home Office not to renew permits to exempt hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

The so-called Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) expired on December 31, leaving about 250,000 Zimbabweans at risk of losing their jobs, bank accounts and deportation.

Delay for Zimbabweans facing the threat of deportation and job loss (Dec 2021)
Zimbabweans are asking the Gautenga High Court to declare them permanent residents (Oct 2021)

This decision is being challenged in court by the Association of ZEP Owners and the NGO Amity Africa, which claim that the owners of ZEP whose expiration date has now expired are entitled to permanent resident status in the SA.

Moneyweb has a proposal forwarded to several branches of Zanu-PF advocating the introduction of a ‘Dr Motsoaledi Aviation Act’ that would impose a pollution tax on all air traffic traveling over Zimbabwe, whether coming from or leaving the SA. Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the interior minister, is accused of publicly insulting senior members of Zimbabwe’s government, including President Emmerson Mnangagwa and several of his ministers. The public position of the Zimbabwean government is to respect the decision of the SA not to renew the permits, although privately, many members of Zanu-PF are angry, warning of the upcoming Cold War between the two countries.

Funds from the proposed pollution tax would be used to help return ZEP owners to Zimbabwe, as well as to compensate truck drivers and Zimbabwean victims of xenophobic violence in the SA. Part of the proceeds from the donation will be used to plant flora and fauna in areas negatively affected by air traffic flying over Zimbabwe.

The proposed aviation law also provides for tax breaks and various other incentives for foreign airlines coming and going from Zimbabwe. This would alleviate any financial burden imposed on them by pollution charges. All charges for airlines arriving and departing from Zimbabwe would be reduced.

A disguised blessing?

“The SA has been our closest ally for decades, because we – among the countries on the front line – have borne the burden of the costs of the liberation struggle,” said one Zanu-PF member. “SA’s hostility towards Zimbabweans comes at a time when nationalism is flourishing again, but this is a two-way street. Zimbabwe is not without the means to respond peacefully to these SA provocations. Many of us see this as an opportunity to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy, offer tax breaks to SA-based companies that fear their future there, and begin to attract companies to relocate here.

“This could be a disguised blessing, because now we have to fix the country and create business opportunities and jobs in a way that was never possible under (the late President) Robert Mugabe.”

One of the first steps in this direction was the launch of the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange and the Special Economic Zone (SEZ), also based in Victoria Falls, which offers tax breaks to companies. Several other SEZs are now being considered.

The proposed pollution tax is not a punitive measure, the proposal says, which has received strong support from many Zanu-PF members concerned about internal hostility towards Zimbabweans.

Deteriorating relationships

The SABC reported over the weekend that a large number of undocumented Zimbabweans were deported to the SA by jumping over a border fence. Roadblocks have been set up south of Musina in Limpopo to catch undocumented immigrants.

Lawyer Simba Chitando, who represents the ZEP Owners Association in her lawsuit to overturn the Interior Ministry’s decision not to renew ZEPs, says anger is growing in Zimbabwe over deteriorating relations with the SA.

“The decision of the Ministry of the Interior not to renew the ZEP is part of the template and there is a call for revenge. It’s time for colder heads to prevail.

Read: Death threats to a lawyer representing Zimbabweans in high court

“Earlier, we expressed concern about groups such as Put South Africa First, which promised revenge against the owner of ZEP, and whose members openly advocated violence against Zimbabweans. We have documented the deaths of more than 200 foreign truck drivers, many of them Zimbabweans, who were killed in acts of xenophobic violence. The government has been silent and even hostile to the victims of this violence, so we have now raised the issue with the International Criminal Court in The Hague. ”

The Gauteng High Court has decided not to consider last week’s request seeking to overturn Motsoaledi’s decision not to renew ZEPs, for technical reasons. The court determined that the lawyers of the Minister of the Interior were not duly served with court documents, and that the application was submitted at the time when the offices were closed.

Various interest groups associated with the owners of ZEP “try every tick in the book”, it is stated statement issued by the Interior Ministry last week.

“At the center of the dispute is the decision of the Minister of the Interior not to renew the ZEP and impose a condition that gives a grace period of 12 months during which ZEP holders must regulate their stay through the country’s usual immigration laws.” . The Minister made the decision because he was authorized to do so in terms of the relevant provisions of the Immigration Act of 2002.

“The relief requested by these two groups was basically to be granted permanent residence and for the court to order the department to issue visas to ZEP owners, until the minister’s decision is reviewed by the courts.

“The so-called urgent reports of these two groups were heard in court yesterday, December 28, 2021.

“We are determined to defend all false court actions aimed at undermining the lawful and reasonable decision I made in my capacity as Minister of the Department.” We are doing this while recognizing the rights of individuals and groups to go to court to seek redress if they feel harmed, ”Motsoaledi said.

“It is a common reason that there are many other groups that are ready to reconsider the decision on ZEP in the courts in the New Year. And as a result, the department will defend a lawful, rational and reasonable decision made in my capacity as Minister of the Department. ”

In a message sent to ZEP owners from the Ministry of the Interior in recent days, the decision not to renew permits is partly explained by the fact that “some of the exempt holders in Zimbabwe violated the conditions so that about 1,900 could in some way apply for exemption within the meaning of the Immigration Act. Their applications were rejected. It goes without saying that a combination of factors led to a lawful, rational and reasonable decision by the Minister. ”

Although the Zimbabwean government has said it recognizes the sovereign right of the SA not to renew ZEPs, many Zanu-PF members are calling for harsh action in response and have given a signal to support the proposed pollution tax for aircraft flying to or from SA.

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