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South Africa grants exemptions to Lesotho and Zimbabwe nationals – Minister Motsoaledi addresses urgent immigration measures

Standard Lesotho Bank launches groundbreaking M11 million cashback rewards for loyal customers footer
Standard Lesotho Bank launches groundbreaking M11 million cashback rewards for loyal customers footer
immigration

Tulani Ngwenya

Pretoria, South Africa – In a significant move to address pressing immigration issues, Home Affairs Minister Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Friday, December 1, 2023, the granting of exemption permits to Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals residing in South Africa. These measures, falling under Section 31 (2) (b) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, aim to provide specific rights under special circumstances.

Motsoaledi began by providing context, stating, “Eight years ago, exemptions were granted to Lesotho nationals due to prevailing circumstances, including challenges in the asylum system and the recognition that many Lesotho nationals were, in reality, economic migrants. In 2019, the permits issued under this exemption regime totaled approximately 54,653, set to expire on December 31, 2023.”

A parallel process was followed for Zimbabwean nationals, with exemptions granted to around 178,000 individuals starting in 2009.

The Minister elaborated on the provisions of Section 31 (2) (b) of the Immigration Act 13 of 2002, empowering him to grant specific categories of foreigners the rights of permanent residence under specified or unspecified periods when special circumstances justify such a decision.

Dr. Motsoaledi then delved into the critical factors that influenced the decision-making process, stating, “Our decisions are grounded in a thorough consideration of the complexities involved. We must balance the needs of our nation with the rights and contributions of those who have become part of our communities.”

Addressing concerns about ongoing litigation, Motsoaledi stated, “The decision not to extend the exemptions for Zimbabwean nationals is currently under legal scrutiny. Litigation by the Helen Suzman Foundation and others is in progress, and the outcome remains uncertain at this stage.”

Zimbabweans, Basotho With Exemption Permits Can Stay in South Africa Until 2025

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The Minister went on to announce the decisions and terms for Lesotho and Zimbabwe nationals. “I have decided to grant exemptions to approximately 54,653 Lesotho nationals for a period of two years,” he declared. These individuals will be entitled to work, seek employment, and conduct business in South Africa. The new exemption permits, which are non-renewable, will expire on November 29, 2025.

Approximately 178,000 Zimbabwean nationals will also receive exemptions for two years. The terms mirror those for Lesotho nationals, with new exemption permits expiring on November 29, 2025, and being non-renewable.

To facilitate the process, Dr. Motsoaledi issued directives extending the validity of exemption permits for Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals until December 31, 2024. Notably, certain protections are afforded to those awaiting the outcomes of waiver and visa applications. Approximately 78,126 Zimbabweans and 10,427 other visa applicants do not need new exemption permits, as the validity of their expired permits has been duly extended.

Urging affected nationals to act promptly, the Minister stated, “I call upon all Lesotho and Zimbabwean nationals affected by these changes to seize the window of opportunity and apply for new exemption permits promptly.”

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