We sat down with Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to get some insights into his department’s plans to encourage inbound travel to South Africa and to facilitate movement within the continent.
A number of amendments in conjunction with the department of tourism and the cabinet are underway, paving the way for simplified yet intelligent travel for domestic, regional and international travellers.
In 2015, cabinet decided to implement measures to adjust immigration regulations, with the goal of increasing numbers for leisure, business and academic travellers coming into the country. Among these measures was the home affairs department’s proposal to issue long-term travel visas to businesspeople from the BRICS and African countries, trusted frequent travellers to South Africa, and to academics from the African continent.
The minister said that some of these plans had already been implemented, barring proposed changes to the unabridged birth certificate that contains details of a minor’s parents, which was first introduced in March 2014.
Travellers with minors from countries with visa exemptions would be issued with a strong advisory note with regard to unabridged birth certificates and letters of consent when they come to the country. It would then be at the discretion of the immigration officers whether they ask for these documents or not. With child trafficking still a pertinent concern, these travellers may be denied freedom to travel to or out of the country should they not have these documents.
“South Africans travelling abroad still need to be in possession of both the unabridged birth certificate as well as the letter of consent from either the parent who is not travelling, or from both parents should the child not be travelling with both parents,” Gigaba said.
The new amendments, following the call for public comments and consideration, will be announced in the Government Gazette in 2017.
A number of proposals to increase travel from our neighbouring countries are also on the cards. An agreement with the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho has been entered into. The agreement would allow Lesotho nationals – once their government has established a database and given the South African home affairs department access to that data – the ability to travel between South Africa and Lesotho without their passports having to be stamped, Gigaba said. Lesotho nationals would simply just need to present the machine readable passport itself.
“We are implementing [this] in terms of the new international migration policy framework that is going to be completed by March next year. Already as we stand, most travellers to South Africa are from the African continent – mostly from the SADC region – that includes undocumented immigrants, those who ordinarily would be called illegal immigrants,” he said.
An afrocentric international migration policy framework is set to facilitate trade and commercial activity between South Africa and fellow African countries. A 10-year multiple entry visa for African businesspeople and academics will therefore be issued, and a three to five-year multiple entry visa for frequent travellers to South Africa.
With free movement within the African continent being a long-term goal, the ministry reiterated the need for collaboration from other African countries, while taking into consideration the need to minimise risk across all borders within SADC and the rest of the continent. The majority of SADC countries have not ratified the protocol, which means precautions must be taken before drastic steps toward free movement are taken.
The minister acknowledged the recent challenges experienced at airports such as King Shaka International Airport, which have resulted in delayed flights and some travellers missing their flights due to processes at immigration through the implementation of the biometric systems.
“We are taking steps as a department, working with various partners such as ACSA and the Civic Aviation Authority of South Africa, to minimise those risks. Among others, by taking steps to increasing immigration officers so that we can be able to fill up all of our immigration checkpoints at the airport to assist more people than we are able to at the present moment,” Gigaba said. So we wish for their indulgence, we apologise for the inconvenience that they have been experiencing.”
The minister also shared that they are looking at other steps to take in the medium to long term that are going to make it even easier for certain categories of people who are significant nonetheless to be able to travel both when they’re outbound as well as when they are inbound at immigration services.
Watch the interview below: