PRESS STATEMENT | Centre for Child Law & Lawyers for Human Rights release guide for children affected by Zimbabwean Exemption Permit

Date: 28/08/2023

The Centre for Child Law (CCL) and Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) have released a booklet aimed at equipping children who are, or whose parents or caregivers are, Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (“ZEP”) holders, titled Zimbabwean Exemption Permits and Children’s Rights: What you should know.

The ZEP was first issued in 2010 to approximately 178 000 Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa. It has been renewed four times by the Department of Home Affairs, and is now valid until 31 December 2023 (see Immigration Directive no. 2 of 2023).

Amongst the 178 000 ZEP holders, there are at least as many children who either came to South Africa with their Zimbabwean parents, or who were born in South Africa after 2010. These families now face a crisis because of the looming cancellation of their legal status in South Africa, after living and working here legally for 15 years. Children, who are not in the same position as adults to choose where they live, are at the centre of this crisis and their rights are affected. Their bests interests must be considered paramount, and their rights to human dignity, identity, family unity, birth registration, and other fundamental rights must be respected. Children’s rights were prioritised when our Constitution was being drafted, hence the entrenched children’s rights section 28 in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa. These rights are in the best interest of all children (all who are under the age of 18 years old).

In the four months left before the expiry of the ZEP (on 31 December 2023) all ZEP holders must apply for a different immigration visa. If granted, they will be allowed to remain in South Africa legally subject to the conditions of their new visa. Similarly, children of ZEP holders are also required to apply for a visa unless they have acquired citizenship in South Africa. The booklet helps the child, and their parent / caregiver, to determine whether they have South African citizenship, and if not, which visa they can apply for and how. Furthermore, it provides step-by-step guidance to children on the process of obtaining a birth certificate, whether from Zimbabwe or South Africa.

Many children of ZEP holders are born in South Africa, and have spent most of their lives here. Many ZEP holders have married South Africans, and have children with possible dual nationality. Children amid this dual identity crisis may be asking themselves which nationality they have, and which permits can they apply for. The booklet seeks to answer these questions, empowering children to formalise their belonging, whether in South Africa or Zimbabwe.

Section 28(1)(a) of the South African Constitution says that children have the right to a name and a nationality from birth. All children born in South Africa are not necessarily South African citizens, but they do have the right to be issued with a birth certificate, formally recording their place of birth and the identity of their parents. This will enable to them to prove their citizenship in either South Africa or Zimbabwe. They also have the right to live and travel legally, and to be issued with an ID or passport. This forms part of their right to have their identity preserved, and forms the bedrock of their rights to participation, survival and development, equality, and to have their best interests considered paramount.

For inquiries contact:

Liesl Muller, Senior Attorney, the Centre for Child Law
Tel: 012 420 4502 and email:

Thandeka Chauke, Head of the Statelessness Programme, Lawyers for Human Rights
Tel: 011 339 1960 and email:

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