Is progress being made with the visa regulations issue? If you relied solely on the Tourism Business Council of SA‘s (TBCSA) update to it’s members, you would think so. Until you get to the sentence, “A Board resolution has been taken that media will be engaged on this matter on a need-to-know basis – we wish to avoid the pitfalls of having this matter playing itself out in the public space and want to ensure that our engagements remain robust but handled with due care.” Which means they have discarded transparency and are playing voetsie-voetsie with government.
They add, “Our Board Chairman, through his links within the ANC National Executive Committee is also working to ensure that the industry’s concerns regarding the regulations are duly considered.” Can he do more than tourism minister Derek Hanekom (also a member of the ANC NEC) given that ANC and its NEC are in total disarray?
The DA shadow minister of tourism, James Vos, pulls no punches in the DA’s submission to the Department of Home Affairs.
In a separate statement, Vos says:
The recently tabled Draft First Amendment of the Immigration Regulations made under the Immigration Act by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), does nothing to address the loss of jobs in the tourism industry, including concerns raised by the tourism industry, government departments and opposition parties.
The Draft First Amendment is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to address the serious problems with the current regulations and will result in the ultimate contraction of the tourism industry.
The reality is that no material changes will be affected by the error-ridden Draft. Rather, the wording of a few provisions have lazily been shifted around, in what can only be seen as an attempt to create the illusion of the DHA’s willingness to engage with criticism of its policies.
The contentious requirement that parents traveling to South Africa with their children must produce an unabridged birth certificate (UBC) has not been removed. Rather than actually change the regulations, it seems that the Department only reorganised the clauses, whilst the requirements essentially stay the same.
Issues with Business Visas, as well as Corporate and Work Visas have not been addressed. The requirements places strict barriers to entry for foreigners who want to do business in South Africa. This makes it more laborious to invest in South Africa, or to attract foreign talent to our country.
Clearly the Department has put no effort into the drafting of their amendments, which provided the Department with the opportunity to improve the widely-criticised Immigration Regulations. The Department should be chastised for this entirely inadequate Draft and its poor attempt at governance.
In order to remedy these issues the DA has made a comprehensive submission to the DHA on the proposed amendments. I will also write the Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as Chairperson of the Interministerial Committee on visa regulations, to withdraw the current and proposed regulations and be replaced by electronic visas, which cut turnaround time, are safer and ultimately streamline tourist facilitations to our country.
Tourism can be used as an effective tool to create jobs, provide opportunities for small businesses, promote livelihoods for communities and bring South Africans together to share experiences. For every 12 tourists that visit South Africa, one job is created. The Immigration Regulations therefore put tourism job opportunities at risk.
So one has to ask the question, is all this talk and all these submissions worth an iota? Government is paralysed through lack of leadership (the education crisis proves this) and any intelligent agenda.
So maybe, SATSA (SA Travel Services Association) has the only solution.
David Frost, Satsa CEO, told South African Tourism Update that legal action against the Department of Home Affairs was a possibility and the association had already sought legal counsel.
“Legal action is an option and it is certainly the last resort and not something that anybody wants to do but it is an option when you’ve exhausted every other avenue,” said Frost. “And it looks very much like we’ve exhausted every other avenue.”
Frost said that what was needed was for the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba to provide the basis of the policy implementation. “Ultimately what you want is a court of law to be able to put the Minister of Home Affairs on the stand and ask him to provide the rational basis for the UBC requirement: how many children have been trafficked? How big is the problem?”
Frost added that they had sought an opinion from senior legal counsel that he would table at the Tourism Business Council of South Africa as an option to consider. “If anyone can provide an alternative remedy to sort the problem out, I’m open to listening to it,” said Frost. “It’s been two years and we’ve made no progress, nor has the Minister of Tourism, nor has the Deputy President, nor the Inter-Ministerial Committee.”