‘We do not need to relive apartheid days: NGOs slam Motsoaledi for attack on Helen Suzman Foundation

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Aaron Motsoaledi.
Aaron Motsoaledi.
Elizabeth Sejake
  • NGOs across the country have lambasted Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's attack on the Helen Suzman Foundation over the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit court case.
  • The foundation said earlier this month it would be taking the department to court. 
  • The ZEP is set to expire at the end of the year.

Several NGOs have condemned Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's attack on the Helen Suzman Foundation over its intention to legally challenge his decision to terminate the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) at the end of the year.

The foundation announced earlier in June 2022 it would take the department to court as it believed those who had followed the law could not have their permits terminated "without fair process, good reason and a meaningful opportunity to regularise their status".

In a statement this week, Motsoaledi accused the foundation and other NGOs of trying to "dislodge" the government.

READ | Home Affairs accuses NGOs challenging ZEP cancellation of wanting to 'dislodge' govt

"This development must be nipped in the bud as soon as possible," department spokesperson Siya Qoza said at the time.

"South Africa is now under the dictatorship of some of the NGOs, with some having faceless and dubious funders. Their ultimate aim is to assist in the dislodgement of the government of the day from power by all means available."

On Thursday, the NGOs - Freedom Under Law, Section27, Defend Our Democracy Campaign, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, SERI and Corruption Watch - called on Motsoaledi to withdraw his statement and apologise.

"This week, we saw a glaring instance of executive abuse of all these features. Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi saw fit to lend his name to an attack on civil society organisations - all because a reputable NGO has dared to take a ministerial decision on judicial review," the NGOs said in a statement.

"Without a shred of justification, the minister issued the most outrageous public statement vilifying the HSF [Helen Suzman Foundation], impugning its integrity and patriotism, accusing it of racism and treachery - and in the process gratuitously smeared the NGO community as a whole."

Special report | Unwelcomed Neighbours: Measuring the human cost of ending Zimbabwean permits

The NGOs pointed out the foundation's case was not that the affected Zimbabweans were entitled to remain in the country, but rather that there was no adequate consultation.

"The minister's threats and innuendos are ominous, but sadly not unprecedented. The apartheid regime shut down or hounded into oblivion countless law-abiding civil society organisations, faith-based organisations and human-rights NGOs. We do not need to relive those days.

"It would be wrong for us to express any opinion on the merits of the HSF case, but it is both grossly improper and unconstitutional for the minister to insult, threaten and attempt to intimidate the HSF. In our country, court cases are determined on their merits in duly constituted courts, not by public declarations," they said.

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