South Africa’s apex court turns down the Minister of Home Affairs’ request to appeal the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) judgment

The decision by South Africa’s highest court to refuse the Minister of Home Affairs’ leave to an appeal, cements a landmark ruling for The Helen Suzman Foundatoin (HSF), represented by DLA Piper (, that successfully challenged the decision to terminate the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit Regime (ZEP).

The Constitutional Court of South Africa refused the Minister of Home Affairs’ application for leave to appeal in the ZEP case, bringing to a close our challenge of the unlawful termination of the ZEP regime, which affected some 178,000 people who had been legally living, working, and building families in South Africa for almost 15 years.

The Constitution enshrines that every person living within our borders deserves to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity, and that is the principle that every government sworn in under the Constitution is bound to honour.

Naseema Fakir, Executive Director, Helen Suzman Foundation, commented: “Government cannot operate in obscurity. Our democracy requires that administrative decisions like this, that adversely affect people’s, rights must be opened to public scrutiny and comment. This is so that the government can exercise its power with accountability and with all the information it needs to treat people fairly and in accordance with the Constitution.” 

Nicolas Patrick, Pro Bono and Responsible Business partner at DLA Piper, added: “This landmark decision achieves justice for thousands of Zimbabwean legal residents in South Africa and upholds the progressive spirit of the South African constitution, one of the finest in the world. We are proud to have joined the Helen Suzman Foundation in challenging the termination of the ZEP regime, and to have contributed to protecting the right of people living in South Africa to fair administrative action.”

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of DLA Piper.

Peter Otero
PR and Comms Manager
DLA Piper
tel, +44 207 153 2617

Notes to Editors

Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP): 
In April 2009, South Africa established the Dispensation of Zimbabwean Permit (DZP) to regularise the status of thousands of Zimbabwean nationals who had fled political and economic instability in their country, mostly between 2007 and 2009. The special exemption was reissued in 2014, and then again in 2017, as the ZEP.

Those applying for the ZEP had to show that they had the financial means to support themselves in South Africa and that they had no criminal record. As a result, today ZEP holders are a population of law abiding and economically active foreign nationals who have built lives in South Africa over the last thirteen years – after being forced to do so as a result of desperate conditions in Zimbabwe. Many ZEP holders have children who know no home but South Africa.

About the Helen Suman Foundation:
The Helen Suzman Foundation aims to promote constitutional democracy, rule of law and human rights in South Africa. In particular it seeks to undertake public interest litigation that safeguards the rights of vulnerable persons who are unable to utilise the ordinary political process in order to do so; to support public advocacy interventions and dialogue that promote public participation and deliberation and so result in informed, reasoned decision-making; and to end impunity for systematic criminal conduct destructive of a constitutional state — whether for state capture-related crimes or apartheid era atrocities.

About DLA Piper:
DLA Piper is a global law firm with lawyers located in more than 40 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, positioning us to help clients with their legal needs around the world. In certain jurisdictions, this information may be considered attorney advertising.

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