Legal Violence: Waiting for Zimbabwe Exemption Permit in South Africa




legal violence, liminal legality, legal suspension, waiting, migrant vulnerability


In 2010, the South African government regularised undocumented Zimbabwean migrants through a special amnesty programme called Dispensation Zimbabwe Programme (DZP) and the permits issued under its remit were valid from 2010 to December 2014. The DZP was succeeded by the Zimbabwe Special Permit (ZSP), introduced from 2015 to December 2017; this, in turn, was replaced by the Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP), effective from 2018 to December 2021. This article analyses the experiences of Zimbabwean migrants between application for replacement of ZSP permits and adjudication of ZEP permits. I argue that waiting facilitates legal violence that harms migrants’ livelihoods and their loved ones. This article does not focus on cases of interpersonal aggression, or physical violence, but it concentrates on factors detrimental to the livelihoods of migrants and their loved ones, which prevent them from thriving socio-economically. Data was gathered through interviews with Zimbabwean migrants in Cape Town, South Africa. This article argues that the legality of Zimbabwean migrants was suspended because the migrants were waiting for the directive from the national Department of Home Affairs to announce the status of the expired permits. During this waiting period, migrants were restricted from getting government services and had their personhood erased through deprivation of livelihoods for a prolonged period without certainty about the outcome of their permits. The waiting also illuminates how different governmental frontiers share their power in exercising legal violence against migrants.


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How to Cite

Nyakabawu, Shingirai. 2021. “Legal Violence: Waiting for Zimbabwe Exemption Permit in South Africa”. Journal of Law, Society and Development 8:21 pages.



Received 2022-01-25
Accepted 2022-07-11
Published 2022-08-31