A TOTAL of 54,653 Lesotho citizens working in South Africa have been granted two-year exemption permits, enabling them to continue working in the neighbouring country.
Dec. 12, 2023
4 min read
Basotho exemption permits extended for two years
SA Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi
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South Africa’s Minister of Home Affairs, Dr. Aaron Motsoaleli, declared earlier this month that the extension would be the final one as he announced the news.
The permits, set to expire on November 29, 2025, will not be renewed beyond that date.
.Following Motsoaledi’s announcement, Lesotho’s Minister of Local Government, Chieftainship, Home Affairs, and Police, Lephema Lebona stated during a media briefing that the decision was a collaborative effort between the two neighbours.
“This comes after vigorous negotiations between Lesotho and South Africa in Pretoria in September this year, where we signed a bi-national cooperation agreement,” Lephema said.
He further showed it was in that meeting that the two countries agreed that Basotho should also be granted 90-day visa-free entry into South Africa.
“I would like to thank Minister Motsoaledi and officers of Home Affairs in both countries for working together to see this process through. We are still working hard to ensure that the movement of people between the two countries becomes relaxed,” he said.
In his speech, Motsoaledi said South Africa decided to grant exemptions to approximately 54,653 Lesotho nationals for a period of two years.
“The affected Lesotho nationals will be entitled to apply for new exemption permits under the following terms and conditions: a holder of the exemption permits will be entitled to work, seek employment, and conduct business in the Republic of South Africa,” he said.
He further mentioned that a holder of the exemption permits due to expire on December 31, 2023, or such an extended period of validity, will be entitled to sojourn in the Republic of South Africa during the validity of the exemption permit.
“A holder of the permit will not be entitled to apply for permanent residence in terms of sections 25, 26, and 27 of the Immigration Act of 2002 or any other provisions in any other law, irrespective of the period of stay in the Republic of South Africa,” he said, adding that the new exemption permits issued will expire on November 29, 2025.
Similarly, Zimbabweans with exemption permits were also granted a two-year extension.
In June of this year, the High Court in Gauteng Division made a ruling regarding the termination of the Zimbabwe Exemption Permits (ZEP).
The Helen Suzman Foundation and Consortium for Refugees and Migrants were the first and second applicants in this case, and the court declared the Minister's decision to be "unlawful, unconstitutional, and invalid."
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The respondents in this case were the Minister of Home Affairs, the Director-General of Home Affairs, the All Truck Drivers Forum, and Allied South Africa. Additionally, the court reviewed and overturned the minister's decision to deny permit renewals.
South Africa initially issued special dispensation permits to Basotho workers in 2009, and these permits were later renewed after their expiration.
Recently, Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane held a meeting with SA's President Cyril Ramaphosa for the inaugural Bi-National Commission (BNC) session between the two countries.
This BNC is the result of an agreement signed in November 2021 to elevate the bilateral mechanism from a Joint Bilateral Commission of Co-operation (JBCC) to a BNC, which is now presided over by Lesotho's Head of Government and SA's Head of State.
The border movement between Lesotho and SA has been a significant issue, as SA is Lesotho's only immediate neighbour.
Many Basotho migrate to SA in search of economic opportunities, some without legal documents, which has caused tension between the two countries.
Lesotho is classified as a developing country, while SA is considered an economic powerhouse in Africa.
Despite previous discussions on free movement of people and goods, this arrangement has not been realised due to a lack of political will.