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We’re not chasing away ‘swallows’, ministers insist after leaked Home Affairs memo

We’re not chasing away ‘swallows’, ministers insist after leaked Home Affairs memo
Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photo: Gallo Image / Papi Morake) | Home Affairs. (Photo: Leila Dougan) | Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Kolot)

Tourists who want to extend their stay in South Africa beyond 90 days still have time to apply for a visa extension. Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says those with a receipt will not be declared undesirable since they will be able to stay until they receive a decision.

After weeks of silence over a leaked Department of Home Affairs memo to Border Management Authority (BMA) officials that international visitors who haven’t received their visa renewals by this Friday, 23 February, must leave South Africa by the end of this month or risk being declared “undesirable”, both Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille and her Home Affairs counterpart Aaron Motsoaledi have finally confirmed that South Africa is not, despite appearances, chasing away its tourists. 

This comes after Daily Mavertick’s report about the directive, published on 21 December 2023, in which the BMA was instructed that tourists who held short-term visas for 90 days or fewer, up to and including 30 November 2023, who had applied for a visa renewal but not yet received an outcome by 23 February 2024, must “make the necessary arrangements to depart from South Africa on or before 29 February 2024 to avoid being declared and desirable (sic)”.

The BMA was said to be under strict instructions to enforce the directive, which was of particular concern to swallows or sun-chasers, who are largely from Europe. They escape their cold countries in winter, chasing the sun abroad, and are accustomed to maximising their stays in a foreign warm country by remaining there for six months of the year. 

In South Africa, swallows are a lucrative source of income, particularly for the Western Cape where many also own property, and feared they would have to leave earlier than expected or risk being declared “undesirable” and banned. 

South Africa grants short-term visas on arrival to a number of countries and territories, including Canada, the European Union and Namibia, for 90 days. During this time visitors can apply for an extension of a further 90 days, but the department is incapable of processing the applications within a reasonable time. 

Motsoaledi used the debate on the State of the Nation Address as an opportunity to address this and other matters.

“We are being accused of chasing tourists out of South Africa. Fortunately, I have had an opportunity of having a heart-to-heart discussion with my colleagues in tourism, Minister De Lille.

“Before you accuse us of things unbecoming,” he explained that for tourism purposes, visitors are not required to apply for visas from 44 countries in Europe, 20 in Asia, 36 in Africa, 19 in North America, 11 in South America and three in Oceania.

“In terms of the Immigration Act, people on visitors or tourist visas have between 30 and a maximum of 90 days to be in South Africa. If you renew for another 90 days, you will have a total of 180 days, after which the law allows no more extensions. This means you have to leave the country, or else you will be declared undesirable.

“All visitors know that and have been practising that for ages without the department being accused of chasing away tourists.”

What is new is that the circular was issued to guide new BMA officials at ports of entry, but that directive ended up in the public arena, he said. “We concede that there was no need to advise anybody to leave the country on a particular day because such dates are already stipulated on the visa.”

He said if you have applied for a visa extension but not yet received a response, your receipt is proof of an extension of your visa until you learn the outcome of your application.

“No one should arrest you while you have such a receipt, and no one can declare you undesirable.”

On Thursday, De Lille told SAfm’s Stephen Grootes that she was happy that Motsoaledi had rectified the “confusion” caused by the memo. “Negotiations are taking place with other countries also so that we streamline the visa system and allow more tourists to come to our country.” 

She said South Africa had more than 8.5 million visitors in 2023. “We are all working together to make sure that we market our country, that we make sure that we diversify our tourism offering… So it is an engagement all the time with Home Affairs.”

De Lille stressed that tourists who have already applied for visa extensions can stay until they have an outcome and those who have yet to do so, can also still apply.

“So, the current position is that all the tourists that have applied for visa extension, if they are in possession of a receipt that they have applied, it’s (the memo) not applicable to them.”

She said her department was also working with Home Affairs, to allow tourists to stay longer. 

But David Frost, the CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), told Grootes the minister could have acted on the matter sooner.

“I do think we need to just pause and reflect on the lessons here… What would have been really useful is if the minister had responded immediately and clarified that so that tourists in the country can get that message and make decisions, because holidays are planned and it needs a level of certainty.”

Last month, Satsa chairperson Oupa Pilane slammed the memo, calling it an irrational decree that shows “complete disregard for the tourism industry and will be ruinous at a time when the country desperately needs visitors’ foreign capital”. 

“South Africa grants short-term visas on arrival to tourists from many countries. But due to astounding levels of ineptitude and incompetence, Home Affairs regularly fails to process the simple visa extensions in a reasonable time.” 

Pilane said the “swallows” who visit for up to 180 days are a golden goose for South Africa’s economy and the tourism sector, which is the country’s third-highest GDP earner.

Swallows are also a lucrative market for the country because of their consumption and associated VAT. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Brandon VE says:

    This havoc was totally caused by bad media reporting relying on the click bait nature of the supposed issue.
    There was no statement from the state saying visitors needed to leave. It didn’t make sense.

    Of course the receipt is all you need. It’s like noone knows how to actually be a reporter anymore.

  • Thank you so much for the news update we recive daily, it really makes us informative at no cost. the current economic situation has made us not to afford to urchase even newspaper or read news online as they want us to subscribe and pay a fee.

    i really appreciate your efford to give us news at no cost.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Well done DM, this comment is a real tribute. It is wonderful that people who otherwise couldn’t are able with your help to get access to quality information.

      It is so sad that our people are in this position, and it is access to information like this which will help them the most to get out of it.

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        Hear hear. My DM contribution rides even easier on the wallet after reading it.

      • Middle aged Mike says:

        My father has an AirBNB that caters almost exclusively to very long stay European swallows and he reckons the noise and inconvenience around this issue has caused some of his multi-year regulars to go elsewhere. As inept and moronic as the ANC are I struggle to attribute this mess entirely to those characteristics alone. Reckon they are sticking it to the Western Cape as that’s where I suspect the majority of the swallows spend their time and money.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Motsolaledi eems to run Home Affairs like he did Health…..wholly inept.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    A typical behaviour of stupid people, i.e., make a decision without thinking through the most basic consequences. It’s not rocket science, but I doubt if these fools could even put together a simple LEGO toy.

  • Rob Fisher says:

    Well not only the swallows are flying north.
    My son and his Dutch wife are leaving (again) after this last fiasco of non/mis information.
    Having already flown out to Netherlands before Christmas to get a visa extension why would they put up with being undesirables.
    There goes another trained South African engineer. Way to go ANC!

  • Big up Minister of home affair we have vested our trust in you. We need people like you whom always stepped one ahead.

  • Could you or the minister please confirm that this rule applies to all visa applications.I have been waiting almost six years for a permeant residents visa.
    Was told at the outset it would take 8-10 months.
    Your help would be much appreciated.

    • Johannes b says:

      Almost the only way to get your PR is taking the legal route, compelling DHA to take decision on your application. Another R30k down the drain, but peace of mind

  • Christopher Campbell says:

    “All visitors know that and have been practising that for ages without the department being accused of chasing away tourists.” Stupid comment.
    Why didn’t he clarify everything as soon as the information was leaked and why did he have to issue that statement to the BMA?
    A totally useless department headed by another incompetent cadre.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    This certainly doesn’t inspire any confidence coming from a buffoon like Motsoaledi, who trashes everything he is involved in. Our health service or rather the non-existent and dire one is all the proof one needs. Just like most ministers in our lamentable government – walking destruction machines., who take this country backwards instead of forwards. We should be bending over backwards and welcoming tourists, swallows etc. with open arms as their contribution to our economy and wellbeing is massive!

  • William Dryden says:

    Motsolaledi another incompetent minister come spin doctor, who always thinks that people are stupid when he tries to explain away some incompetent decisions his department makes.

  • So what happens to long term visa holders awaiting their outcome who needs to tracel due to emergency reasons or see their families, International Airports outside South Africa does not recognize DHA Receipts ???? Can we can an answer on this. Thank You

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    This is such typical ANC language than my sides ache with laughter.

    We are NOT chasing away foreigners. Sure it might sound like it from our internal memos, it may feel like it from the service we give and from the experience of foreigners trying to get visas. It may look like it from the class action court cases currently being fought against us by the private sector, representing tens of thousands of unsuccessful applicants and it probably even smells like it after you visit any one of our beautifully run offices.

    But, I called Patricia last night and we had a brief chat, and contrary to what you feel, see, hear and smell, we can assure you that we are not doing this thing, because Patricia told me last night.

    I mean seriously? Are we living in the F#$^ing twilight zone?

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      Ha ha very good – and sadly, very true.

      Aaron and Patricia you do make a fine couple of stand-ups. A pity that your comedy comes at such a high expense for everyone else.

      Embarrassing.

  • Alpha Sithole says:

    Good news! BUT I still can’t believe the number of UK “swallows” who still complain about the price of a pint at our golf club! At R35 – R40 it’s a steal…

  • Penelope Meyer says:

    I was watching the testimony of the father of Fani Willis (DA in the Trump election case). His name is John Clifford Floyd III, also a lawyer, and interestingly in his testimony when he was being questioned about where he lived before he moved in with his daughter, he said that he lived in Johannesburg South Africa, where he had intended to retire, but had to leave – he didn’t elucidate but I got the impression that he couldn’t get permission from Home Affairs to stay. He was a black panther in his youth. Its just interesting that Home Affairs does not seem to do any real evaluating of applications. Bit much to ask I suppose.

  • andrew farrer says:

    Totally INCOMPETENT! Given this extention seems to be quite a popular and regular thing, anyone with half a brain cell would offer a 6 month visa for these guys, charging accordingly so SA gets the additional visa revenue without the labour expense to process an additional application?

  • Herbert Baeuml says:

    Is it possible to verify this decision on the DHA website? I find it almost hard to believe that the decision has been reversed.

  • District Six says:

    Why then, issue a faulty directive that has severe consequences for tourists impacted by it – as if it wasn’t thought through? And why wait from 21 December to 19 February to make a public correction? Why can’t a visa extension be processed within a three-month period?
    Tourists who spend money here seem to be treated abominably by the DHA bureaucracy. Why bog down tourists with bureaucracy when hotels or SAPS or even an SMME could process such extensions? I’m sure no tourist/swallow would object to paying a fee for the certainty of visa extensions and not having to spend hours in a DHA queue to secure it from a contractor.

    SA Tourism could do a lot more for tourists who actually come here than squander one billion Rands on football advertising. If they were intending to pull that much out of a budget, why can’t they use it more effectively to support tourism and develop local small business, artists, transfer SMMEs, guides, youth meet-n-greeters hosts, etc?

    Instead of creating blockages and more bureaucracy, why not create more jobs in the tourist service industry?

    • Vin Meagher Meagher says:

      A billion Rand football advertising squander will feed the trough of the minister and her cadres with no real evidence unless they keep the proceeds in the same place used by their game-farming leader. If discovered, the same ANC denial machine will kick in just as is now happening with the two well practised ministers.

  • Respect for Truth says:

    One would think that, with the salaries government pays, they would be able to employ somebody who could write a coherent memorandum which says what is intended.

  • Johan Buys says:

    It seems common sense prevailed. Swallows should print a copy of this article when they leave and take to airport, along with a certified copy of their application to extend.

    Enjoy the weather and the exchange rate! Spend more and bring friends with next time. €2 beers and €20 rounds of golf in great weather will keep them happy.

    • Chris Koppelmeier says:

      Do you really think that a immigration officer at the airport takes notice of an Daily Maverick article? We had a situation a couple of years ago when my wife had a receipt of her application for visa extension and she was declared undesirable for 5 years. It took us a lawyer and 11.000 Rand to reverse that.
      I don´t trust any news on this matter until it is published on the Home Affairs website.
      So we will leave SA on the 29. Feb. if there is no new publication on the DHA website.
      Bye bye South Africa. Sorry to spend our money in Namibia instead.

      • C S says:

        Exactly Chris. I travel to Namibia often, the tourists are flooding in there. And Namibia opens them with welcome arms and the tourists are safe and they experience great service (unlike Souwfefricaaa). I stand to be corrected but there are two Lufthansa flights daily into Windhoek from Germany. SA is losing out due to shirt sighted bigoted kleptocrats.

  • Christa North says:

    “Stagnating economy, ballooning wage bill and struggling tax base – Godongwana’s Herculean task” Daily Maverick.
    Do the relevant “Ministers” and other deployed individuals perhaps make a connection here?
    Where are the big picture thinkers?

    • Trevor Pope says:

      There aren’t any – it’s all transactional.

    • Fran V says:

      Big picture thinkers? They are unable to think like that. They see the here and now, how they can benefit themselves and ignore everything else. The ignoring is so bad that they don’t even realise when they have made a major boo-boo. And worse they won’t acknowledge the extent to which have made a mess because at the end of the day it doesn’t effect them right now so why worry. It’s not like the ‘retraction’ has any real effect, I guarantee you Visa extension receipts help no swallow in the slightest anywhere other maybe than at a Home Affairs building.

  • Ukraak17 says:

    I don’t understand the fuss. Just use the tried and tested (and BMA approved) Rest-of-Africa-visa, or colloquially referred to as hole in the fence.

    No time limits, and you can get free medical at any state ruined hospital.

  • William Kelly says:

    The man is a Muppet. Did we really expect anything different? Would be nice to kick him out and make him use his own system to get back in. Actually, that might be the one time that the system works in that he’ll not be issues a visa anytime soon…

  • Talk, talk, talk..but nothing officially! Will be after 29th of February 😭😭

  • brian.bartholomew says:

    I am a Swallow and I have been chased away, I was declared undesirable in May 2023 for not having my visa extension receipt to hand at Border Control. I duly appealed sending a copy of my receipt to overstay appeals. This was ignored as has been all my requests for information. No one ever answers the telephone number given to get information. As a foreign national I know I have no rights in South Africa. My South African wife and I own a house in the Eastern Cape bought with UK pounds which I guess we should now sell and take the money out of South Africa.

  • L S says:

    The issue is that the immigration staff at the airport may not have the memo.

    We received a 90 day extension for my wife *more than a year* after applying.
    Luckily she was back in the country again, and we could actually use it.
    Unlike the previous time this was extended from when we received it, not 90 days from when we applied (and severely out of date).

    If a simple 90 day tourist visa takes more than 1 year to be processed, I shudder to think how long its going to take for her spousal visa…

  • Debby van Zyl van Zyl says:

    By all accounts, from first hand news, the inefficiency going on in Asia for Chinese citizens to get visas to South Africa leaves one speechless. Apart from that, the bribery and corruption in Home Affairs towards Chinese residents in South Africa and requiring permanent residency visas (after 15 heats of residency) or re-entry visas, is disgraceful. So while we are on the topic of Home Affairs, may the lack of appropriate service to encourage tourists and help returning residents be further expounded. Money talks. How sickening.

  • Steve Uk says:

    Hi,
    I have just visited VFS the visa agent(27 Feb), they have informed me that if I’m still a waiting for a visitors visa extension and I have not received a decision, I must leave be Thursday!!!
    Who do you believe????

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