Towards the end of last year, the South African government announced that it would not be renewing the Zimbabwean Exemption Permit (ZEP) that had been granted to citizens prior to 2009. The decision, which was attributed to Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy under Robert Mugabe’s four-decades-long regime, stands to affect close to 200,000 Zimbabweans currently working and studying in the country.
Although South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs claims it is merely regulating immigration within the country, the move speaks to pervasive and systemic xenophobia towards Zimbabwe — a country whose seemingly forgotten political contributions were valuable during the fight against apartheid.
Overlooking historical ties
To better understand the broader impact of the revocation of ZEP, it’s important to go back in time and consider the relationship between South Africa and Zimbabwe.