Zimbabwean truckers are being denied the ability to renew their South African driver’s licences as the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) system winds down, with a little less than two years to run before it is terminated.
These truck drivers have complained of rising xenophobia in SA, with more than 400 killed by local vigilantes since 2019, according to the Zimbabwe Truckers Association of SA.
Denying them the right to renew their driver’s licences in SA also denies them the right to earn a living in SA.
“It’s completely illegal and unconstitutional to deny Zimbabweans lawfully in SA to renew their driver’s licences and we must now again go to court to force the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to comply with the law and stop making up the law on the fly,” says Advocate Simba Chitando, who has successfully defended the rights of Zimbabweans in SA through multiple court challenges against the department and the minister of home affairs.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwean truckers are moving to friendlier countries, like Poland.
“It’s become clear to many Zimbabwean truckers operating in SA that they are not welcome here, and I am aware of about 300 of them who have moved to Poland where they are welcomed,” says Wellington Manyonda.
Manyonda, head of the Zimbabwe Truckers Association of SA, adds: “They are able to earn good money in Poland, where the entry level wage is about $1 800 [R34 000 a month].”
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Manyonda says the DHA “has realised that they can continue to milk Zimbabweans for billions of rands by introducing new visa requirements every few months”.
“Just a few months ago we were told we could apply for visa waivers.
“Thousands of Zimbabweans applied for these waivers, only for Minister [of Home Affairs] Aaron Motsoaledi to announce at the end of 2023 that you no longer needed waivers as the ZEP system had been extended for two years.
“Every time we are told we need a new permit, the DHA makes a fortune from us.”
The ZEP allows Zimbabweans to live and work in SA, but once it ends on 29 November 2025, permit holders will have to apply for alternative visas or face deportation.
ZEP holders will not be entitled to apply for permanent residence, though this is being challenged in court by the ZEP Holders Association, which argues that permit holders are entitled under the Immigration Act to apply for permanent residence after five years in the country.
One trucker explained to Moneyweb his harrowing experience trying to renew his licence.
“They [the traffic department] said that they could not help me because I have a ZEP permit, and by that token, they just told me to forget that I would be able to renew the licence anywhere in South Africa.
“As it stands, I am married to a South African citizen and have applied for what the Home Affairs Department refers to as a TRV [Temporary Residence Visa] permit, which is a spousal visa that allows for work and study.
“I am stuck and do not know what to do because these permits are not available.”
Truckers ‘purged’ from eNaTIS
Foreigners are required to obtain a Traffic Register Number (TRN) on the eNaTIS system if they want to purchase a vehicle or convert a foreign driver’s licence to a South African one.
Manyonda says these TRN licences are being linked to the ZEP expiry date, which means many thousands of Zimbabwean truckers are being purged from the system and are no longer able to earn a living in SA.
“It’s clear this has to do with the upcoming elections in SA and the ruling party wants to win votes by scapegoating Zimbabweans, who are being falsely blamed for much that is wrong in SA, such as crime and unemployment.
“It’s a sad commentary on the state of the country that we have to fight so many legal battles to protect the rights of Zimbabweans here, but we have no choice.”