Answer to a question from a reader

Can my South African-born child register for matric with her passport if I am a ZEP holder?

The short answer

Yes, her passport will be sufficient to register for matric.

The whole question

Dear Athalie

I am a ZEP holder with a South African-born child who needs to register for matric. I am still waiting for my study permit to be issued, so I can't apply for hers yet. Can she register using her passport?

The long answer

Yes, her passport will be sufficient to register for matric, while you wait for your permit to come through.

In 2023, the courts confirmed that children of ZEP holders must be allowed to register for school. This was after some school had refused to register several children of ZEP holders. The court order obliged the schools to register the children within 10 days. The judgment was based on the Constitutional Court finding in 2011 that Section 29(1)(a) of the Constitution confers the right to basic education on every child living in South Africa, whether a citizen or not.

The National Employers Association of South Africa reported that on 1 December 2023, the Minister of Home Affairs issued the following directives: (I have bolded what might be of interest to you.)

  • The validity of the original ZEPs will be extended until 29 November 2024:

    • original ZEP holders who have already applied for waivers and for other mainstream visas, do not have to apply for the “new” Exemption Permits;

    • holders of the original ZEPs as well as the new Exemption Permits cannot apply for permanent residency or citizenship;

    • holders of the original ZEPs can apply for waivers and applicable mainstream visas, and are advised to do so urgently; and

    • if an original ZEP holder has applied for a waiver and a mainstream visa, he/she will be allowed to remain and be employed in South Africa, until they receive the outcome of their applications.

Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants reported in December 2023 that current ZEPs would automatically renew till 29 November 2024, but in the period leading up to November 2024 a ZEP holder should apply to renew the permit until 29 November 2025.

As you probably know, the Minister of Home Affairs has applied to appeal to the Constitutional Court against the finding of the Pretoria High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal that his decision to terminate the ZEP had been unlawful and that he had a year to reconsider and make proposals that consulted those affected and complied with the law. There is no news yet from the Concourt.

Strategic Migration Services gave the following advice on December 4 2023 about whether a ZEP holder was obliged to apply for the new ZEP permit if they had a pending waiver or mainstream application: 

“No, there is no need to apply for the new exemption if you have a pending waiver or mainstream visa application. The Minister has exempted individuals with these applications from the requirement to apply for the new exemption.” 

So, I think that it should not be a problem for your daughter to register for her matric with a passport.

If you should run into difficulties with the school, you could ask for help from one of the following organisations:

  • Legal Resources Centre: 


Tel: Cape Town: 021 481 3000

Tel: Johannesburg: 011 836 9831

  • Lawyers for Human Rights: 


Tel Cape Town: 021 424 8561 

Tel Johannesburg Office and law clinic: 011 339 1960

Wishing you the best,

Answered on March 27, 2024, 9:49 a.m.

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