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ISSUE 08 | 2016

Dear Colleagues,

South Africa is open to business and tourists

[In this issue we share a response from our Spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, to an article on SA’s immigration policy which was published on Business Day Live. The response by Mayihlome first appeared on Business Day Live on Sunday 12 June 2016]

It’s hard to figure out where Gary Eisenberg got t his idea that Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba prefers an “isolationist policy” (BDlive, 8 June).

Unpersuasive also is the claim the Minister’s address to the Cape Town Press Club in May excluded a policy recognising the importance of foreigners’ contribution.

The Minister’s opening statement thanked the Press Club for the interactive session for sharing ideas on “how the better to build a Department of Home Affairs that responds to the needs of its clients, both SA citizens as well as foreign nationals whom we serve.” This framed the address in its awareness of benefits of international migration.

Contrary to Eisenberg’s views, the Minister, consistent with our mandate, outlined current priorities as they relate to clients – citizens and foreign nationals – most of which unpacked in his 2016/17 budget vote speech, the subject of that briefing session.

With innovations introduced as part of the department’s modernisation programme, we now capture at SA’s international airports travellers’ biometric data as they arrive. We have waived the requirement for transit visas thus making it possible for clients to travel with ease and safely.

Services for foreign nationals and visa concessions confirm rather than negate SA’s resolve to attract foreigners, bringing in critical skills, facilitating economic development, methodically.

Operating in a highly secure environment is about making citizens and foreign nationals to be and to feel safe. This is to make SA attractive even for the same reasons Eisenberg advanced concerning a recent report of Statistics SA saying more Europeans choose to retire in SA.

Professionalising staff is about better service also for those choosing our country. Senior managers’ time at the coalface of delivery is for both front-offices and border-posts.

Online services for Smart ID Card and passport applications rendered in partnership with ABSA, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank impact on SA’s role in Africa and the world, making it possible for citizens conveniently to access documents with which to travel the world.

Minister Gigaba did focus on international migration policy. To quote him at length:

“We have undertaken to dedicate specific focus to the management of our immigration services, precisely because we believe part of our responsibility is rooted in the National Development Plan, in particular our role in enabling economic development and contributing to national security.

“To this end, a Final Draft of the Green Paper on Migration has been finalized, with a view to charting a new trajectory to replace the current international migration policy, which, we believe, does not enable South Africa to adequately embrace global opportunities while safeguarding our sovereignty and ensuring public safety and national security.”

The Minister did say key policy recommendations include using the visa and permitting regime strategically to retain international students in the country post-graduation, to overcome the non-recognition of qualifications, which is one of the critical challenges associated with leveraging skilled foreign nationals.

The Minister did announce we have 25 visa application centres in nine high-volume tourism markets around the world having successfully launched five additional centres in China, bringing to nine visa facilitation centres there, and marking SA as the second highest footprint, after Britain, and the highest among BRICS partners.

Also shared is that a 10-year multiple entry visa for BRICS partners was granted followed earlier this year by a 10-year multiple entry visa for business and academics on the continent. As stated in the preamble to the draft Border Management Agency (BMA) Bill, there is a need for integrated and coordinated border management that facilitates secure travel and legitimate trade in accordance with the Constitution, international and domestic law. BMA is not a “hallmark of a closed SA.”

There were no alleged amendments to the Immigration Act in 2014. And I don’t see how one would support deceptive claims of “isolationist policy” in one department with what is allegedly happening in other two departments – Labour and Trade & Industry.

Let’s factually engage Eisenberg’s claim of DHA attempting to be isolationist and comparatively analyse it against other countries that have similar authorities.

First on that list is France, a country that attracts the most travellers; it has a border authority called Direction centrale de la police aux frontières (DCPAF).

Other countries with similar border authorities are Canada, UK, and the US, the list goes on, none of which Eisenberg would ever dare label isolationist. These melodramatic labels are only applied to African countries for attempting to meet global standards, ‘how dare we?

If DHA is pursuing isolationism, then maybe we probably don’t understand the word’s meaning. We are an isolationist who extends no visa requirements to SADC, an isolationist who extends 10 years visas to Africa and BRICS, an isolationist who offers permanent residence to critical skill graduates, one that hasn’t yet reciprocated visa requirements imposed on us by many developed economies.

Truthfully, it’s probably Eisenberg who either doesn’t understand what the word means, or is ignorant of our policies.

As for the pep talk on ‘the rainbow nation’ and SA history that’s incontestably constitutive of our lived-experience, it should suffice to say the ideas of the rainbow nation should not be used as a subjective tool for shallow criticism.

The best for Eisenberg is embracing the Minister’s invitation together to strive towards creating an environment conducive for the SA economy to thrive amidst the current difficult global outlook whilst balancing our security imperatives.

We all must promote South Africa as a prime tourist destination, one which is safe. Some among the media have misleadingly imagined that national security and the attractiveness of a destination are opposed to each other. Oddly, the empirical and painful evidence of countries whose immigration has suffered due to instability is well documented.

South Africa is and will always be open to bonafide business and tourists.

 

Mayihlome Tshwete

Spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba and Head of Communication for the Department of Home Affairs