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Home Affairs Minister Motsoaledi says visa renewal reports are ‘overblown’

Home Affairs Minister Motsoaledi says visa renewal reports are ‘overblown’
Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

Aaron Motsoaledi says he knows of only five cases at Cape Town International Airport and one that was referred to him by Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille’s office, which suggests the issue is motivated not by the intention to help affected people, but rather to tarnish Home Affairs.

A defensive Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has finally addressed the contentious issue of visa renewals, claiming it was never his department’s intention to chase away tourists.

The department had issued a directive instructing the Border Management Authority that visitors here on a short-term visa who had not yet received their visa renewal outcome by 23 February 2024 should leave South Africa by 29 February to avoid being banned.

In an official statement posted on the DHA website, he suggested that since the tourism department had received only a single complaint and he had heard of five other cases at Cape Town International Airport, the issue was being overblown — possibly motivated not to help affected people, but rather “just to throw mud at the department”.

His office failed to respond to queries in January about the visa renewal fiasco. About three weeks later, Motsoaledi claimed in Parliament that “(The) directive is clearly misunderstood by all and sundry. This was meant to be an internal memo, to guide new BMA officials at the ports of entry. Unfortunately, it even touched on issues that clearly needed no directive. We are being accused of chasing tourists out of South Africa…”

Talk is cheap

The fact that the memo was “internal”, as he claimed, made little difference: BMA officials have taken the directive to mean it is the department’s official position and have said they cannot accept the minister’s speech in Parliament as anything more than a speech.

Since then, dozens of tourists, lawyers and immigration consultants have complained about bannings, despite them having receipts for visa renewals.

The most recent matter involved a Filipino woman who was banned on Saturday at Cape Town International Airport. She has been travelling to South Africa for years, as her partner owns a property in the country.

In a surprise briefing on Sunday, Motsoaledi addressed three issues, starting with the visa matter, raised by Daily Maverick in January (and to which he has yet to respond directly); the matter of a Zimbabwean national who was trying to stop his deportation, and the President’s proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit to probe visa issues at the Department of Home Affairs.

Motsoaledi said they needed to check at the borders if there had been a significant spike of people who had visited South Africa as tourists “and are leaving”.

‘No spike’

“If there was such a spike, we wanted to act in mitigation. In this regard, we reasoned that if tourists are in trouble, their first port of call will be the tourist industry operators and the ministry of tourism. If the industry feels threatened, they will approach the tourism ministry.”

With that in mind, the Department of Home Affairs approached Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille to find out how many people had approached her as a result of actions emanating from the circular, he said.

However, De Lille reportedly told Motsoaledi’s office that only one case had been referred to her department, which she immediately directed for his attention, “and the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of the individual concerned”.

Doubling down on his statement in February to Parliament that a receipt for visa renewal would be sufficient to remain in the country, Motsoaledi said the receipt’s reference number helped to trace applications.

“In case your visa expires before the department has responded to your application, that receipt will act as an extension of your visa until such time you get a response, negative or positive.

“This means that no law enforcement officer, immigration officer or officials at the port of entry may trouble you while you are carrying such a receipt.

“As I said earlier on, when the circular was issued, it was an attempt to guide BMA officials because they were regarded as new at the borders.

“If there is anybody who was declared undesirable whilst they were carrying their receipt, they need to present themselves to the department so that their undesirability status can be removed.”

He said since they had identified only one person through the tourism department and five at Cape Town International Airport, they were not in a position to conclude that these were the only people who had been negatively affected by the circular.

“So, today we are making a call to the people in the industry or any other institution which are in a position to identify such people so that we can immediately resolve their issues. Up to so far, the accusations directed at Home Affairs are full of generalities and anecdotes and no specific cases were given to us.

“We are pleading today that anybody who wants to accuse must please be specific because accusations without providing specific details won’t help the individuals affected, except of course if the intention was never to help such affected people but just to throw mud at the department.”

Not enough

However, the Federated Hospitality Association of SA  (Fedhasa) believes the circular has already damaged SA tourism internationally. 

In a statement on Monday, Fedhasa said: “While the minister regards the ensuing media storm and the distress among the tourism sector as unintended consequences of an internal document, the reality presents a starkly different picture.

“The experiences shared globally by ‘swallows’  – tourists who migrate seasonally in search of warmer climates – attest to a more distressing outcome.

“These narratives, far from being isolated, have reverberated through international communities, painting South Africa as a destination fraught with visa challenges.”

Rosemary Anderson, national chair of Fedhasa, said it was a “matter of fact” that the circular, though intended for internal use, became a public concern that significantly dented the image of South Africa’s tourism sector.

“The delay in addressing and retracting the circular allowed for widespread dissemination of negative experiences, solidifying a perception of South Africa as unwelcoming.”

She said the incident underscores a recurrent theme in our visa regime’s history, where well-meaning policies inadvertently deter tourism and tarnish our reputation on the global stage.

“This incident may not only have affected the immediate plans of many international visitors but has also sown seeds of doubt about South Africa’s openness as a tourist destination. 

‘Beyond mere inconvenience’

“The damage inflicted by the circular — including forcing individuals to leave and marking them persona non grata for a period — goes beyond mere inconvenience. 

“It has eroded the essential confidence and security that tourists seek when choosing a destination.”

She said that by targeting “swallows” in particular — people who contribute significantly to our economy through their extended stays — highlights a missed opportunity in our visa policies. 

“These individuals, who seek refuge from the harsh European winters, are not merely tourists but are economic contributors who invest their time and resources into our local communities and businesses.

“The need for a more accommodating visa policy, one that recognises the value and potential of such long-term visitors, has never been more apparent,” Anderson said.

Fedhasa believes the discussions should not simply revolve around rectifying the fallout of the circular, but also encourage a reassessment of visa policies to be more flexible and welcoming, especially towards tourists from countries with a strong track record of compliance and economic contribution. DM

If you’ve been banned or had problems with your visa renewal, please email [email protected].

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris le Montfort says:

    All this dimwit of a Minister has to do is to send out another directive to the border guards and immigration officials stating clearly that, if an applied for a visa extension has not arrived on departure from SA, but the person travelling has the receipt from VFS, then they may leave unmolested. Bleating on about in the media is not enough, as these immigration officials have made clear. And it is disingenuous to say that only a handful of people have been affected so far. That’s not the reports coming in from agents and individuals who have been deported. They are being punished for this totally incompetent Minister and his dysfunctional Department being unable to process visa applications in a timely fashion. I am still waiting for my visa extension but even, if and when it arrives, it will be useless as its expiry date was early February!

    • Ashley Stone says:

      Agree 100%! Total incompetence. We have been waiting over 2 years for a temp perm res visa (expired August 2022, that we applied for in May of that year long before expiration) The perm res visa was applied for in 2016-we have been waiting 8 years! Think about that, 8 years! From HA?…..crickets!
      A National disgrace!

      • Anton van Niekerk says:

        Complete shambles at DHA. Also waiting over two years for a simple renewal of a family class residence visa. The website says to apply 60 days before the expiry of an existing visa! The minister must take responsibility and resign.

    • Samantha Housden says:

      My wife and I are waiting for 2 years and 4 months for her spousal visa…with no end in sight. Seems the only way forward with HA is class action lawsuits.

    • Arthur Lilford says:

      ” which suggests the issue is motivated not by the intention to help affected people, but rather to tarnish Home Affairs.”
      You are the ANC you are tarnished from the beginning – but you can bleat as much as you like you have “tarnished” RSA

  • Geoff Krige says:

    Based on their general incompetence in doing anything:
    * The minister of home affairs seems to think a visa shambles is a small matter.
    * The minister of police seems to think the crime rate in South Africa is a small matter.
    * The minister of water affairs seems to think the water supply and sewage treatment choas is a small matter.
    * The minister of basic education seems to think learners poor reading ability is a small affair.
    * The minister of public works seems to think electricity supply is a small matter.
    * The minister of health seems to think having patients queueing until they die is a small matter.
    * The president seems to think deployment of corrupt cadres is a small matter.
    It is interesting how quickly all these “small matters” have destroyed South Africa.

    • Geoff Coles says:

      So mostly Cape Town and regular tourists. This shameful Minister has sullied South Africa for too long…. get rid of him!

      • Christopher Campbell says:

        How many would have gone on an official route? Not many. Most would have just packed their bags and left, probably never to return. Another successful own goal. With thousands of applications in backlog and growing every time it is announced, he has the temerity to say that it is a minor affair to blacken his department.

  • Steven D says:

    So Aaron (he is not honourable, I’m afraid) is calling those affected liars simply because they did not or don’t have the wherewithal to spend hours trying to report the matter to the DHA?

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Just goes to prove that the right hand knows not what the left hand does! A commonANC problem!

  • Nils Heckscher says:

    Maybe the ministers media advisors can teach him a thing or two about reputation management! One bad case reported widely can cause a lot of fallout! It would be great if they could stop being defensive and simply improve.
    Besides these issues it must also be said that the welcome most receive on arrival at CTIA is efficient and friendly! See, minister, we also praise when praise is due! 😜

  • Random Comment says:

    This would be the same Minister and Department that struggle to keep a website online and functioning.

    Anyone who has used the “ehome” site of the DHA knows that the Department is barely functioning – even if working perfectly, the site takes 10 MINUTES to process a simple payment.

  • Anthony Krijger says:

    Its impossible to tarnish Home Affairs any more than it has done so itself.

  • Graeme J says:

    The minister is wrong. There is no need for external reports to make the DHA look bad. They do it all on their own.

  • Geoff Holmes says:

    Its very difficult to understand how ministers, such as Dr Motsoaledi can display such incompetence and malign indifference in multiple departments over multiple years and still retain their posts as ministers. The damage done is immeasurable and simply shrugged off as “exaggeration”. As South Africans we need to strive to be world-class, not just “better than before” when even that is debatable.

  • Paddy Ross says:

    What I can not understand as someone who uses Vfs, is how can Vfs do all the essential screening work within seventy two hours yet DHA, which then only has to issue the permit (?maximum one hour required), takes months and months to do so? Why did DHA enter a no doubt costly contract with Vfs that has not improved the overall efficiently of the service one iota?

    • Alan Hirsch says:

      VFS does the front end, but decisions are made centrally in Pretoria. Why it takes so long is probably a combination of inefficiency (poor systems), incompetence and people looking for bribes to speed up processes.

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Classic ANC stuff. Failed at the Health Ministry, moved to Home Affairs which, by any account on any day of the week, is a MESS! It is a disgrace and insult to this country that this “Minister” can do no better than DENY and BLAME for an obvious failure underpinned by what those in the Industry know. No doubt he will be promoted to an even bigger job in the near future. Failure is all that matters on those CV’s.

  • Mark Cowell says:

    DM….there is clearly some depth to this story. Are you able to establish an exact number of people who have been affected by this piece of DoHA nonsense to date and perhaps update it as the days go on? Let’s get the Doc in the Dock. Also, perhaps you can press the Doc and/or Mrs de Lille for a personal contact (WhatsApp/e-mail etc) so that people affected by this cock-up can seek swift mitigation.

  • Francis Palmer says:

    I have been a permanent resident since 1964. I am a UK national.

    I applied in February 2023 for a Proof of Residence in the format now required by border control. I have a green ID book but apparently the new proof of residence document is required as well.

    I have been waiting now for over 13 months since I applied. DHA acknowledged receipt of the application on 10 February 2023.

    I run a business here in Johannesburg, pay taxes and have employees.

    It is astounding that a matter as simple as this should take so long. All attempts and emails to escalate the process remain unanswered.

  • Jack Rollens says:

    I was stuck in South Africa during the worldwide lockdown. Covid 19. I had a medical emergency and arranged a seat on a special flight out back to the USA. It was the only flight out of Joberg airport. When I went through the Home Affairs stop I told the two guards that I overstayed because I couldn’t get out of SA. They pulled me aside like a criminal and wrote a paper saying I was “Undesirable” and banned me.
    We were the only people and flight out. The airport was closed. I got in a huge argument with these people. They did nothing. I am a multiple property owner and I am in Conservation.
    Home Affairs is just like the rest of the government. Corrupt and incompetent. Starting with Ramaphosa. Wildlife trafficker and owner of a Lion breeding ranch. And canned hunting facilities.

    South Africa is in a race to the bottom.

  • Ira - says:

    Home Affairs Department is extremely indicative of the state of all our government-run affairs in the country. Visited DHA five times this year, with an appointment, to apply for a new passport for my child. Every time “the system” was off-line. Cancelled planned holidays because of it. Why is this “system” crushing all the time?

  • Anon Anyone says:

    A friend applied for an extension to his working visa in 2021/2 and is covered by the waivers issued since then. He had also applied for Perm Res and received a letter telling him he was in the country illegally two years later (almost 3 since application). He has obviously appealed (more money) the perm res application, and the waiver extensions still cover him. Strangely his colleague who applied for both at the same time with the same qualifications was given perm res and a week later, their visa extension. It is a mess of note.

  • Ruben Hough says:

    We came to South Africa from the UK after living there 20 years. As soon as we arrived back in 2022 my wife applied for a visa and all we can do it going online to track our application progress. No person can help us and or give us a reason why or what is the reason for the delay, all it say is they have received our application. We are still waiting and it is now nearly 2 years and counting with no joy. The initial application was quick but once it is over to the VFS guys in Pretoria. No response and one can say what is going on.

    • Christopher Campbell says:

      So no visa, no ability to open a bank account and no ability to buy a car because you haven’t got a visa. Why do all the other departments and banks stick to these idiotic measures when they know that DHA is well and truly broken?

  • Maronga Maronga says:

    I am 45 years old. This minister is the worst I have ever seen in my life. And seems that he is not about to be moved anytime soon. Nothing works in that ministry.

  • Michael Meyer says:

    What a farce to actually call this a department – it is totally dysfunctional and should be scrapped and built from the ground – and the whole management level should be removed! I have been waiting for a Letter of Permanent Residency since the 4th of May 2023 and nothing is yet forthcoming! How long does it take to generate a template (which I am sure it is) and sign it? What a crock!

  • Ian Macdonald says:

    Swallows are still being declared undesirable at Cape Town airport! 2 friends went through the airport today 1st April and were declared undesirable even with the receipt showing proof of extension. When will Home Affairs send a directive to the border agency withdrawing the December directive.

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