Archive from March, 2015
Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Zimbabwe says keen to grant visa exemption to Chinese visitors

Mar 05,2015 Shanghai Daily
HARARE, March 4 (Xinhua) — The Zimbabwean government said Wednesday it is willing to grant visa exemption to Chinese nationals to boost the country’s tourism sector.
Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi said Zimbabwe was keen to have the Chinese upgraded to Category B of the country’s visa classification which will allow the Chinese to obtain visas on entry into Zimbabwe.
The Chinese are currently required to obtain visas in China to visit Zimbabwe.
“We are very much willing to open our borders to the Chinese people so that they come in their numbers and boost our tourism industry,” the minister said.
The minister was speaking at a half-day workshop on Chinese enterprises and community integration into Zimbabwe, an event organized by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Chinese embassy in Zimbabwe.
According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Zimbabwe has been receiving between 3,800 and 5,500 Chinese tourist per annum, against arrivals of between 80,000 and 100,000 in neighbouring countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Chinese Ambassador Lin Lin said he will follow up the visa exemption issue with the Zimbabwean side to reach an agreement at the earliest possible time.
“We are going to do what we can through consultations, dialogue, and negotiations with our counterparts in the Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Ministries to reach further agreement to ensure the citizens of our two countries have easy access to travel, do business and invest,” he said.
He said the Chinese government has in recent years been making efforts to reach agreements with as many countries as possible to enable Chinese citizens to travel abroad.
The pledge by Zimbabwe to grant the visa exemption to Chinese nationals comes at a time when both countries last November scraped visa requirements for holders of diplomatic and service passports.
The move followed a Memorandum of Understanding that the two countries had signed during President Robert Mugabe’s visit to China in August 2014.
Meanwhile, Lin hailed the growing bilateral relations between the two countries, noting that bilateral trade had been strong and growing at an average annual growth rate of 10 percent.
China is Zimbabwe’s largest source of foreign direct investment and the second largest trade partner, with bilateral trade having surpassed the one billion dollar mark.
He said China had made remarkable contribution to Zimbabwe’s economic growth through its investments in major sectors of the economy which had also helped in employment creation.

Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

LETTER: State ambivalent over immigrants

February 24 2015, Business Day
LEADING on from your editorial (Investors balk at unpredictable law, February 20), it is not difficult to observe in the media that the government is ambivalent over the state of our immigration policy, laws and service delivery.
It is worth noting that two ministers, those responsible for home a ffairs and t ourism, have issued conflicting statements in the media regarding their assessments of the new visa laws. Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says these will not be revised, while Tourism Minister Derek Hanekon has said they will be.
The run up to the changes is well documented, with various experts providing inputs to Parliament, previous ministers and to senior officials. The experts often have insights that politicians, legislators and officials do not have, because they work with the system as consumers. They have experience of having to deal with inconsistent interpretations, untrained staff, unlawful and incorrect decisions and, in the worst cases, constitutional violations.
No one is saying that this is not a difficult area to administrate, because we know that it cannot be managed by automated administrative systems. Discretion has to be applied because we are dealing with complex situations and fallible people as applicants.
The response to errors and unforeseen circumstances, where people may submit late applications or be waiting for essential documents, should be proportional, humane and should not occur outside of the parameters of the constitution. There has been a marked increase in unilateral, harsh and unconstitutional actions ever since Home Affairs fell under the security cluster in the government, probably because all immigrants are now viewed as a threat to the state.

Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

EDITORIAL: Investors balk at unpredictable law

February 20 2015, – Business Day Live
THE government is inclined to dismiss warnings that its policy choices could discourage foreign investment as either exaggerated or without foundation. But that stance is starting to appear decidedly shaky as investors break their silence to object to opaque lawmaking, and international data on foreign direct investment flows point to a loss of interest in SA as an investment destination.
Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani recently objected to the government’s decision to reopen debate over minerals pricing, saying this reversal had created mistrust and put SA’s credibility at risk internationally. Meanwhile, private equity firms polled by Bloomberg say returns from South African investments have been shrinking for a decade, making West and sub-Saharan Africa more attractive due to their ability to offer a higher internal rate of return.
Yet despite paying lip service to the need for foreign investment and the importance of policy predictability and business confidence, the government continues to promote and promulgate laws that do the opposite. The draft Expropriation Bill that is now before Parliament, for example, is intended to form the foundation for the pending Protection and Promotion of Investment Bill, which replaces bilateral investment treaties, and the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill, which will ban foreigners from buying agricultural land and limit the size of existing farms to 12,000ha.
Yet it is silent on how it will interact with the Property Valuation Act that was promulgated last year, which provides for the establishment of an office of the valuer-general whose job it will be to value property earmarked for expropriation. This law was intended to overcome the land reform logjam, which the government blames on the failure of the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle.
It remains to be seen whether this goal will be achieved, given that the word is that there have always been plenty of willing sellers, and the real obstacle has been a lack of political will on the part of the state. Either way, the outcome has been greater uncertainty across the board, from the perspective of existing farmers, local business owners and potential foreign investors alike.
The definition of property contained in the draft Expropriation Bill is not restricted to land, raising the prospect of movable property, including assets such as shares and intangibles such as intellectual property, being seized by the state. This is especially worrying because, although the bill now allows recourse to the courts in the event of dispute, terms such as “public interest”, “public purpose” and “reasonable terms” remain in the draft without detailed explanation of what they actually mean. Who determines what is in the public interest? Reasonable from whose perspective?
As if this were not enough confusion, President Jacob Zuma referred in his state of the nation address to a policy to be “explored” that would see commercial farmers being forced to cede half of their land to their employees. Again, no details on how this might work. No indication that any research has been carried out to ascertain whether such a policy is feasible, let alone constitutional.
On Thursday, in his response to the state of the nation debate, Mr Zuma pooh-poohed concerns that if the Regulation of Land Holdings Bill becomes law and SA’s most successful farmers are forced to reduce their land holdings, food security will be compromised. But it is clear that this and many other policies are being formulated on the hoof in response to populist pressure, which is guaranteed to increase uncertainty and result in bad laws.

Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home Affairs’ extended office hours hope to end long queues

by Wyndham Hartley, 05 March 2015, – Business Day
DEPARTMENT of Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni on Wednesday announced that new opening and closing hours for the department would be in place before the end of this month so as to improve service delivery to South Africans.
The department has long been plagued by long queues as members of the public wait to be serviced with identity documents and passports.
The new regime is designed to ensure that Home Affairs officials start work before the offices are opened to the public to ensure all systems are in place before service to the public begins.
Office hours will be from 7.30am to 4.30pm, including a 30-minute lunch break. Opening and closing hours for serving clients will be from 8am to 4pm. It was decided that two shifts will be required to ensure successful implementation. The first shift will commence at 7.30am and end at 4pm. The second shift will commence at 8am and end at 4.30pm. Both shifts will include a 30-minute lunch break.
Mr Apleni said the decision on new opening and closing hours followed an extensive consultative process with organised labour as well as benchmarking with relevant stakeholders, both internal and external.
He told a news conference that the new hours will benefit the department’s clients, managers, staff members and the organisation as a whole. “Importantly, the new opening and closing hours will afford managers and staff sufficient time to interact with each other on service delivery matters and front office operations.
“With the new opening and closing hours staff members will still work a 40-hour week spread over six days, Monday to Saturday; and work only two Saturdays a month. This also means that the new opening and closing hours will not change the maximum number of hours officials are required to work. All staff will still work 40 hours a week,” he said.
The Saturday shift will commence at 8am and end at 1pm for staff members, and from 8.30am to 12.30pm for service to the members of the public.
“Staff members will alternate between the two shifts, thus ensuring flexibility with regard to the Saturday shift.
“The new opening and closing hours will undoubtedly be of benefit to clients and the department’s staff. These will include having more staff available on any particular shift to address service delivery demands in the front office. Our clients will spend less time in queues,” Mr Apleni said.

Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Moving refugee hubs to borders goes ahead

by Carol Paton, 04 March 2015, – Business Day
THE Department of Home Affairs is pressing ahead with plans to locate refugee reception centres at ports of entry and close those in more distant cities, but is firm that its policy is not one of “encampment”.
The movement of refugee reception centres to the borders is part of the department’s wider attempt to get on top of the regulation of refugees and migrants, which has become a flashpoint of conflict in SA’s townships.
The aim is to encourage genuine asylum seekers to apply immediately when they enter the country and to limit abuse of the system by migrants who do not face political persecution.
The centres will be located at OR Tambo airport; Musina; Durban; and Lebombo. The department has only recently acquired land for the Lebombo centre, which is yet to be built.
The plan to move refugee reception centres to ports of entry has been strongly contested by refugee and human rights lobby groups, which in 2012 successfully blocked the closure of offices in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth through court action.
However, the offices have taken no new applications for the past two and a half years and the department plans to wind down their activities.
The matter of the closure of the city offices is still under review by the courts and has raised fears that SA will establish refugee camps by stealth.
Home Affairs Director-general Mkuseli Apleni denied this was the intention. “As SA we took a conscious decision that we don’t believe in an encampment policy. We are not talking about setting up camps. But the Western Cape and Eastern Cape don’t share borders with any other countries. What we are doing is taking the resources (for asylum applications) closer to where people are coming in,” he said.
Asylum seekers entering the country would make their applications at the centres and retrieve them there once they had been processed. In the interim, they would not be confined and would live among the local population.
Meanwhile, the amendments made to the Refugees Act in 2011 have still not been enacted and will now be scrapped through a new amendment the department intends to bring, Mr Apleni said. Some of the amendments had been found to be unworkable.
The delay has badly affected the processing of refugee applications. The system is in chaos with backlogs of hundreds of thousands of applications and massive abuse by migrants whose real motive is to seek economic opportunities rather than political asylum.
The four-year impasse had made it impossible “to achieve the efficiencies we wanted”, said Mr Apleni.
He hoped that a new amendment bill would be passed by the end of the year. Among the amendments are: a single official rather than a committee will deliberate on applications for refugee status; and a Refugees Advisory Board will have the discretion to open its hearings to the media or not.
Processing and passing legislation which is then not implemented for many years has become a trend in the Department of Home Affairs.
Neither of the immigration amendment acts of 2007 and 2011 were enacted until last year.

Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

SA engineers condemn hiring of Cubans for water projects

by Paul Vecchiatto, 02 March 2015 – Business Day
THE employment of 34 Cuban engineers by the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation has caused an uproar in local engineering circles and now the Democratic Alliance (DA) is posing parliamentary questions over the matter.
The estimated cost of employing the Cuban engineers, who arrived in SA on February 17, is about R50m a year. SA has hundreds of unemployed engineers, according to the DA.
Earlier this month Water Affairs and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane welcomed the Cubans to SA to work on a number of projects to refurbish crumbling water infrastructure.
However, the South African Institute of Civil Engineers has slammed the recruitment of the Cubans, saying local engineers would have applied for the jobs if they had been offered the same incentives as the Cubans in rural communities, national and provincial infrastructure departments and local authorities.
“The money spent on establishing and accommodating these engineers in SA could possibly be better spent relooking at current salaries and working environments in these areas to the benefit of civil engineering professionals, a number of whom are unemployed, thereby creating sustainable jobs within SA,” the institute said.
Consulting Engineers SA (Cesa) president Abe Thela said his association was appalled by the department’s action.
The Cubans’ arrival follows a bilateral agreement that SA and Cuba concluded last year for co-operation in water resources management and supply.
Mr Thela warned that the recruitment was worrying since Cuban engineering skills were not recognised by the Engineering Council of SA, because Cuba was not a party to the Washington Accord, which governs international engineering qualifications.
“Our member firms are currently only being 60% utilised and have 40% spare capacity, while they are waiting for the government to bring projects on stream,” Mr Thela said.
DA MP Leon Basson said he had asked the chairman of the portfolio committee on water and sanitation, Mlungisi Johnson, to summon Ms Mokonyane to the next committee meeting to explain why she had bypassed unemployed South African engineers.
Mr Basson said the same amount of money could have been spent to employ more than 60 local engineers. There were an estimated 500 unemployed engineers in SA, making it nonsensical for Ms Mokonyane to look abroad to fill contractual positions in her department.
He said the DA supported the South African Institution of Civil Engineering (SAICE) view that Ms Mokonyane’s decision acted as a disincentive to local graduates.
“It is also counter to healthy levels of cooperation between the government and the private sector. By tapping into the local pool of unemployed engineers, unnecessary problems such as language barriers and a lack of familiarity with South African design codes and practice can be avoided,” Mr Basson said.
The DA will also request the portfolio committee to invite the SAICE and the Engineering Council of SA to deliver a presentation to the committee on how they could help solve SA’s water and sanitation crises.

Mar 5, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

LETTER: SA open to migrants

March 03 2015, Business Day Live
LEON Isaacson claims the state is ambivalent about immigrants and alleges that the departments of home affairs and tourism are contradicting each other on the new immigration regulations (State ambivalent over immigrants, Letters, February 24).
He may have overlooked numerous statements Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has made about the regulations and the fact that they are by no means cast in stone.
These regulations were not developed abruptly, as insinuated, but are a product of a thoroughgoing process. The regulations are not about a particular minister. They are more about national priorities.
The Department of a Home Affairs has a complex balancing act to strike. On the one hand, we should strive to make travel as convenient as possible and, on the other, we must be vigilant about national security .
Even then these perceived opposing concerns are not completely independent of each other. Many travellers visit countries in which they feel safe and shy away from those they feel are too risky.
Mr Isaacson’s somewhat melodramatic assertion that home affairs views all immigrants as threats could not be further from the truth. SA remains an attractive destination for immigrants .
We think the writer deliberately omits that the regulations as Mr Gigaba announced allow students to be issued with study visas “for the duration of their studies” — a first for democratic SA. This means that if you are in a learning institution for a five- year degree, we will issue you with a study visa for five years, as opposed to the past, when you had to renew it every year.
We also allow graduates, after successful completion of their studies, to change from study visa to work visa while they are in the country.
Mayihlome Tshwete
Spokesman for the Minister of Home Affairs and Department of Home Affairs