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The South Africa government’s decision to terminate the special residency permits of around 180,000 Zimbabweans has been ruled “unconstitutional” by the country’s high court. The Zimbabwe Exemption Permit system was introduced about 13 years ago to deal with the surge of migrants from its northern neighbour. They had fled economic hardships and political crackdowns.

The four-year visas were repeatedly extended, but in 2021 the government said it intended to end the scheme that had allowed the Zimbabweans to live and work in South Africa.

If implemented it would force Zimbabweans to return home unless they obtained regular work visas – even if they had children who were born in South Africa and were South African citizens, the Associated Press agency reports.

The Helen Suzman Foundation, the human rights organisation which challenged the government’s decision, hailed the ruling by the Gauteng High Court in the capital, Pretoria.

According to the AFP news agency, the home affairs ministry said it would appeal.

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