BY SILAS NKALA/TAPFUMANEI MUCHABAIWA
SOUTH Africa Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi has blasted South African civil society organisations for opposing his decision not to extend the exemption permits which were granted to Zimbabwean nationals.
About 300 000 Zimbabweans who have Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP) face deportation if SA insists on not renewing them.
In a statement on Tuesday, Motsoaledi reacted to a court action launched by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) to defend the affected Zimbabweans by challenging the non-extension of the permits by the SA government.
Motsoaledi said at times CSOs can be a stumbling block to implementation of government’s rational and lawful decisions.
“The recent surprising court action launched by the HSF is a perfect example of the destructive role that some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are capable of. Since the announcement of the decision of the minister not to extend the exemption granted to Zimbabwean nationals, he has engaged with several members of civil society with a view to manage the consequences of his decision collectively.
“Little did the minister know that the HSF was behind the scenes planning the so-called ‘public interest’ court action,” Motsoaledi said, furher claiming that SA was now under the dictatorship of some NGOs with faceless and dubious funders.
“The decision of the minister not to extend the exemptions granted to Zimbabwean nationals has been widely supported by South African citizens. The HSF, in its desperate bid to blackmail the nation, is twisting the support for the minister’s decision by the majority of South African citizens as being xenophobic,” he said.
Motsoaledi criticised armchair critics saying they must not use SA’s Bill of Rights to pretend that they were champions of human rights on the African continent. He also alleged that after taking the decision not to extend ZEP permits, he was issued with death threats.
“We cannot be expected to throw up our hands in despair and fail the people of South Africa. The minister hopes that sense will prevail and that the HSF will opt for engagement than embark on a spurious court action, which can only lead to further tensions between citizens and foreign nationals.”
He also argued that if HSF has interests of Africans on the continent, then they must assist the affected Zimbabweans to apply for other visas as provided for in the Immigration Act.
“The minister calls upon all affected Zimbabwean nationals to ignore the false hope created by the HSF and adhere to the procedures outlined by the department in various public notices and communication,” Motsoaledi added.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Livit Mugejo said: “If those who have been deported feel their rights have been infringed, they can go to the courts as private citizens or as pressure groups, but that has nothing to do with government. What we just do is to engage South African officials stating that if the permits are not renewed they should allow those that failed to apply for a new dispensation.”