The Home Affairs Department has 30 days to process the backlog in permanent residence applications for over 180 people.
In its ruling, the High Court in Pretoria highlighted that the department’s delays have left applicants — many of whom are Swiss, German, British and US investors — waiting over seven years for an answer.
The court says delays are stifling investment into South Africa to the tune of at least R15-billion in sectors including retail and property investment.
The department has not filed any court papers in its defence but has indicated it needs more time to consider applications.
Advocate Simba Chitando, who represents applicants, says that if the deadline is missed, criminal charges could be laid against the Home Affairs Minister and Director-General for being in contempt of court.