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Motsoaledi should be held accountable for visa fiasco, not encouraging job creation — Fedhasa

Motsoaledi should be held accountable for visa fiasco, not encouraging job creation — Fedhasa
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)

The hospitality industry association says Home Affairs fails to recognise the importance of tourism in job creation and economic growth, which is why it keeps scoring own goals by actively discouraging tourists, especially from the world’s two biggest and fastest growing outbound markets India and China — our original BRICS partners.

The Department of Home Affairs needs to recognise the importance of tourism in job creation and economic growth — and how the uproar about the short-term visa renewal, which it caused, has undermined South Africa’s economy, says Rosemary Anderson, the national chair of the hospitality industry body Fedhasa.

The damage is done and it will take years to undo, she believes.

On Monday, we reported that Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had finally addressed the short-term visa renewal issue, claiming it was never his department’s intention to chase away tourists. This after the DHA had issued a directive instructing the Border Management Authority (BMA) on 22 December 2023 instructing officials 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.

That statement has subsequently been removed from the DHA website although it was still on the website on 13 March, when we reported that the Western Cape’s minister of finance and economic opportunities, Mireille Wenger, had written to Motsoaledi on 1 March requesting an official position on visa extensions — which he had not responded to at the time. This after it was revealed that immigration officers had banned tourists and even medical professionals because they did not have a visa renewal, despite their efforts to comply with legal requirements.

In Motsoaledi’s statement posted on the DHA website on Sunday, he said 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 (listen here) — possibly motivated not to help affected people, but rather “just to throw mud at the department”.

For months, his office failed to respond to queries about the visa renewal fiasco and only obliquely addressed the crisis. Last month, during the Budget debate, Motsoaledi claimed in Parliament that the directive was “clearly misunderstood by all and sundry” and that it was meant to be an internal memo, to guide new BMA officials at the ports of entry.

His spokesperson Thabo Mokgola reffered Daily Maverick to the minister’s statement made on Sunday.

The “internal” memo was deemed as an official instruction for BMA officials to act against visitors who had overstayed their welcome. The BMA said it cannot accept the minister’s speech in Parliament as an official position: it is just a speech.

Simply taking the directive off the website is not enough, Anderson said — Motsoaledi needs to issue an official document that can direct the BMA as well as tourism operators.

Anderson says she knows of dozens of people who had to cut short their trips to South Africa in response to the circular, and one person who was banned for five years.

“The fact that he mentioned that the tourism minister (Patricia de Lille) had only received one complaint is just plain wrong. She’s not in daily contact with things like this. Even if it was just 10 people (affected), unfortunately, those 10 people go back home and they tell (an untold amount of people). It’s absolutely wrong — it should never have happened in the first place.”

Consequences

Undoing the damage is not going to be easy to correct, she says, especially due to a lack of communication between the ministries. “If you implement something and then change it to try to get everyone to actually know what the new change is, it is difficult. There are border control officers all over the country so to try to get them not to not do what they were told to do — in writing — is going to be really difficult.”

The reputational damage is done, Anderson says and it will take years to undo the harm, much like the unabridged birth certificate fiasco, which tour operators and airlines are still complaining about — 10 years after carrying the certificates became mandatory for parents travelling from abroad with minor children (introduced under Malusi Gibaba) and five years since it was scrapped in October 2019 by Motsoaledi.

“Believe it or not, hospitality WhatsApp groups still have messages where people are panicking that they have guests at the airport but don’t have unabridged birth certificates. Once you implement something or once you say something, correcting it is a nightmare.”

She said what Gigaba had done in terms of the unabridged birth certificate was horrendous but Motsoaledi is being judged on what he has also not done. “The digital nomad visas were being spoken about three years ago and nothing’s been done about it. Imagine how many more tourists we could have had in the country. We’ve only reached about 79% of our pre-Covid inbound numbers, which is pathetic. Most other African markets have exceeded Covid levels.”

Unwanted BRICS tourists

South Africa also makes it practically impossible for visitors from China and India — the two biggest and fastest-growing outbound markets in the world — to get visas. This is senseless because we are preventing a massive, and monied, market from the East. “It’s ridiculous that we have got this wonderful BRICS relationship but we don’t respect our original partners, China and India. If these relationships are so important to us, and we allow all European countries visa-free access, why do we make tourists from India and China jump through so many hoops? There is no logic.”

South Africa requires tourists from China to present themselves in person to visa offices, unlike in Australia, where they can apply for an e-visa and receive it within 48 hours. Because the country is so vast, many Chinese tourists don’t bother to apply — so they visit more tourist-friendly countries like Australia.

David Frost from Satsa says SA is left eating the crumbs of its international tourism competitors because it can’t process visas efficiently, noting that in 2013, SA reached our limit of 150,000 arrivals from China, when Australia hit 700,000. Over the next six years, Australia doubled their arrivals from China to 1.4 million and SA regressed to 95,000, simply because Home Affairs can’t do their job.

Australia also grew its numbers from 112,000 to 400,000, while SA went backwards, to 95,000.

Anderson says tourists need the surety that if they want to book a holiday and flights, they will get a visa. “Who’s going to book a holiday when you’ve heard from someone that you might not get a visa because that happens to a lot of people in South Africa?”

Losing out on forex 

Smoothing the path for tourists brings in critical foreign exchange, she points out, saying “this is just pure forex coming in. And we’re not having to build a factory, or anything like it. All we have to do is have customs officials allow them to come in and then tourists can just do their thing and enjoy all of our wonderful offerings. It’s like manna from heaven.”

Fundamentally, Motsoaledi should be called out for what he has not done and that is to encourage job creation.

“The government says the private sector must get involved in job creation but the single biggest obstacle is the government. We have to hold him accountable for the number of jobs he hasn’t allowed to be created in South Africa because of what he hasn’t done — besides obviously what he’s done recently with this memo which has caused so much trouble.” DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Gavin Hillyard says:

    Typical incompetent, stupid and uncaring ANC politician. Missing the forward thinking gene perhaps?

  • Kim Grobler says:

    Another ANC CADRE that has screwed this country over. When will it stop? Seems like everything they touch is a screw up. Not one SOE DEPT is effectively run after 30 yrs of being in power. We have a failed State and our leadership fails to see that. All because greed is their 1st priority. Such a damn shame!

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    A typical useless, arrogant and idiotic anc cadre who as is the norm, is clearly not fit for purpose and leaves misery, failure and destruction in their wake. This is the anc DNA as is their corruption and theft. Where is the spineless Cyril in all this? This is the fool who appoints these gross incompetents and there is no accountability when they screw up – it will happen as there is mountains of precedent. And they tell everyone that the anc has a good story to tell!! What a sick joke!

  • Charles Butcher says:

    Both of those idiots in the pic should be “HUNG DRAWN AND QUARTERED ” the only way to deal with such absolute RUBBISH

  • Respect for Truth says:

    Just another in a long line of incompetent, dishonest ANC ministers. He should explain how the clearly worded directive to the BMA was “misinterpreted”. Who did he not immediately issue a directive withdrawing the original directive if the intention was not to implement it? Only three explanations: incompetence, stupidity or deliberate sabotage of the tourism indestry.

  • William Stucke says:

    I can guarantee that this fool still holds himself in the highest regard. Look at the rosy report he claimed for Home Affairs in Parliament recently. People served “in 7 minutes” – after they have queued outside for five hours!

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Exactly William! They only see what the want to see or what their pea brain allows them to work out. How this pathetic and useless individual could ever claim or present a rosy picture of what he leads is simply astounding, but that is the anc way – incestuous backslapping for destroying everything they lay their rapacious hands on. His previous portfolio was the health ministry and we all know what a disaster that is.

  • Johanna Wilmink says:

    Last year it costed me 1000 euro to get new plane tickets . I was supose to stay to the 5th of may . I had the slip from vfs global but had to leave before 30 april . Now again i applied on the 5th jan 2024 and have fligh tickets for 20 may. I hope i receive my visa extention on time . I cannot again spend 1000 euro for new tickets

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