Zimbabwean Truck Drivers in SA with Valid Permits Cannot Be Fired, Rules Durban High Court

November 24, 2023
Truckers have 10 days to prove they have lawful ZEP permits while Image Freight Logistics has the same amount of time to prove it has complied with the order | Report Focus News
Truckers have 10 days to prove they have lawful ZEP permits, while Image Freight Logistics has the same amount of time to prove it has complied with the order

Durban, South Africa – In a defining legal decision, the Durban High Court has ruled that Zimbabwean truck drivers holding valid Zimbabwean Exemption Permits (ZEP) cannot be dismissed from their jobs in South Africa. This ruling comes as a significant legal triumph for the rights of immigrant workers in the country.

Several Zimbabwean truck drivers, employed by Image Freight Logistics, brought their case to the Durban High Court after being terminated on the grounds of being illegal immigrants, despite possessing valid ZEPs. Some of these dismissals were notably carried out through WhatsApp messages, an act that sparked further controversy over the handling of their employment termination.

The court has now prohibited Image Freight Logistics from terminating the employment of ZEP holders on the basis of alleged illegal immigration. This order will stand until the expiry of the ZEP on June 30, 2024. Furthermore, both the truckers and the employer are required to demonstrate to the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) within ten days that they possess lawful ZEP permits and are in compliance with this order.

This decision arrives amidst the uncertainty faced by approximately 180,000 ZEP holders in South Africa. The ZEP system, established to legalize the status of Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa for various reasons, was slated for termination by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. However, the Helen Suzman Foundation won a court case earlier this year, extending the validity of ZEP permits until June 2024.

The case was precipitated by a notice from the National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry (NBCRFLI), advising against employing foreign truck drivers without valid permits. Unfortunately, this led to some employers erroneously terminating Zimbabwean truckers who were, in fact, legally authorized to work.

The Durban High Court’s interim order, unless contested, will become final on February 6, 2024. Advocate Simba Chitando, representing the truckers, hailed the ruling as a crucial step in upholding the rights of ZEP holders in the logistics industry, essential for regional trade and stability. He called for all employers and regulatory bodies to respect not only the rights of ZEP holders but also of Zimbabweans in general, underscoring the essence of rule of law in a constitutional democracy.

This landmark ruling is a significant stride in safeguarding the legal rights of migrant workers in South Africa, reinforcing the country’s dedication to human rights and adherence to the principles of justice.