Archive from May, 2015
May 20, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

DA reacts to “job-killing” travel requirements

19 May 2015
The last minute release of the details around the travel requirements for minors travelling internationally by the Department of Home Affairs will spell a disaster for our travel industry in South Africa and the Western Cape,” says the Democratic Alliance.
The political party released a statement today calling on Minister Gigaba to “stop crippling the tourism industry through onerous travel requirements”.
“The Minister should scrap the demand for unabridged birth certificates in order for families to visit South Africa freely. We cannot afford to lose any more jobs in South Africa.
“Launching the details around unabridged birth certificates 12 days before they are to be put in place is a recipe for disaster for our tourism industry. Visa regulations will kill 21 000 jobs as it is. Further tightening legislation, at such short notice, will only make matters worse,” the DA said.
The new travel requirements for minors travelling internationally, as part of the Immigration Regulations 2014, come into effect on June 1. These stipulate that all minors under the age of 18 will be required to produce a certificate that shows details of both parents when entering or exiting South African ports of entry.
“The DHA seems to be pursuing a blanket approach to curb child trafficking yet reports indicate that the reality of the situation remains vague,” the statement said. “The 2014 Trafficking in Persons report states that South African citizens and foreign nationals are subjected to human trafficking mainly within the country. South African children are recruited from poor rural areas and brought to urban centres such as Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.
“It appears that the greatest challenge to human trafficking is not a lack of, but rather the enforcement of existing legislation. The DHA should rather follow international best practice or the Western Cape’s coordinated anti-trafficking and victim referral mechanisms

May 19, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

South Africa: Operation Fiela – Sweeping Dignity Aside

By Lara Wallis- Groundup – 18 May 2015
Just under a month ago today, South Africa was shocked by the images on the cover of the Sunday Times on 19 April 2015. The images depicted Emmanuel Sithole, a Mozambican man and breadwinner for his family, lying on his back amongst rubbish as he pleaded with three men bearing knives standing above him, moments before they fatally stabbed him in cold blood.
The incident left South Africa and the world desperately calling for action on the part of the South African government. Operation Fiela, which places foreign nationals in the same category as illegal firearms and drugs to be seized, is not quite the action that many had in mind.
By allowing Operation Fiela to sweep through South Africa indiscriminately without taking into account the individual circumstances of those arrested, and failing to address less visible manifestations of xenophobic practices by the Department of Home Affairs, the government is in fact condoning institutionalised xenophobia by sweeping aside the right to dignity of foreign nationals.
Operation Fiela has been framed as an operation to do away with multiple forms of crime in “crime hotspots”. However an overwhelmingly large percentage of those arrested during the course of Operation Fiela have been so-called illegal foreigners.
This has led non-governmental organisations to state that the operation appears to be targeting undocumented migrants, a claim that has been strongly denied. The government has justified Operation Fiela’s arrest of foreigners by stating that those who are “law-abiding” have nothing to fear. What this sweeping operation fails to take into account is that the question of whether a foreigner is legal or illegal cannot be reduced to a checkbox exercise. Frequently, an individual’s classification as “illegal” is in fact not through any fault of their own, but due to policies put in place by the Department of Home Affairs that render it impossible for them to abide by the law and ensure that their permits are valid. This is particularly so in the case of refugees and asylum seekers.
Many people, including the South African police, are unaware of the process that an asylum seeker has follow in order to be apply for refugee status in South Africa or just how long the process takes. While the Department of Home Affairs purports to endeavour to determine refugee applications within six months, it frequently takes between five and ten years for a claim to be finalised. In February of this year, the Durban High Court chastised the Department of Home Affairs for having taken more than seven years to finalise the claim for asylum of a Congolese man entitled to refugee status, after which he was erroneously rejected.
This situation and these deplorable time periods are sadly the norm rather than the exception. Refugee Status Determination Officers appear to view refugee status determination as a form of influx control, rather than an investigation into whether or not an individual is in need of genuine humanitarian protection in terms of South Africa’s domestic and international legal obligations. It seems that claims are rejected on an almost blanket basis, even in cases where refugee status should clearly have been granted. This in turn clogs up the appeals process and causes claims to take an even longer time period to be finalised.
The individual concerned is forced to live life in limbo for this period and attend the Department of Home Affairs as often as every one to six months in order to extend their temporary permits. If their claim is ultimately decided in the negative, their permit is withdrawn and they are issued with a letter stating that they have a mere 30 days to leave the country. They are given no option to apply for extension of this time period, irrespective of how long it has taken to process their claim. This means that someone who has lived in South Africa and formed a home and a life for their family over ten years, is suddenly forced to pack up their entire lives and leave within 30 days. As one can imagine, there are circumstances where this is simply not possible.
What Home Affairs fails to recognise is that their ineptitude, rather than deterring migrants from entering South Africa (as some believe could be the Department’s deliberate strategy), in fact gives rise to a system liable to abuse. Asylum seekers who do have legitimate claims for refugee status, are forced to continue to live an existence in limbo, while those who do not have legitimate claims will nonetheless be able to remain in South Africa for a number of years while their claim is being determined.
Along with the unreasonably long period of time it takes to process applications, further barriers to legalising their stay have arisen for asylum seekers through policies employed by the Department of Home Affairs. In 2010, the refugee reception offices in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth attempted to shut down so that new asylum seekers could not obtain permits in these centres. The Department claimed that these centres were being closed down in order to allow for the funding of a new Refugee Reception Centre in Lebombo on the Mozambican border. To this day, no express assertion of when this new centre will be opened has been given. The Supreme Court of Appeal found in strong terms that the closure of the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre is unlawful and have ordered for it to be reopened. Home Affairs has indicated its intention to take this matter on appeal to the Constitutional Court
A further policy employed by the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office has been to decline to extend the permits of any asylum seeker who did not obtain their first asylum seeker permit in Cape Town. The effect of this is that asylum seekers, including those who have been living in Cape Town for ten years or longer while waiting for their claims to be processed, are forced to find the means to travel from Cape Town to Musina or Durban as frequently as once a month to extend their permits. This not only constitutes a violation of asylum seekers’ rights to freedom of movement, equality and dignity, but for many, particularly those working to support their families, this is simply not possible.
This policy is currently being challenged for a second time in the Cape High Court. The fact that we need the courts to intervene represents the sad state of affairs. In the meantime, however, these individuals are still in possession of expired documents through no fault of their own. They consequently face the risk of being swept up and arrested in the course of the Operation Fiela raids, in spite of the fact that they may have legitimate claims for refugee status which are still in the process of being determined.
The combination of these policies appears to form part of a more subtle Fiela-type strategy, namely to sweep foreign nationals seeking asylum in South Africa into the corners of the country. This would effectively create a camp-based system in South Africa, where asylum seekers are confined to South Africa’s borders while their claims are being determined. In this way, urban areas would essentially become asylum-seeker free zones.
The problem with this lies in the fact that, due to Home Affairs’ inefficiencies in processing claims, asylum seekers may be confined to the borders for up to ten years. This is despite South Africa’s international obligations to have an integrated urban policy for refugees. A de facto camp-based system of this nature would create a potential humanitarian crisis.
Further, placing all asylum seekers in concentrated areas would also render them even more vulnerable to targeted xenophobic attacks. This is not in line with South Africa’s Constitution, enshrining dignity and respect for all. It sends a message to the public that foreign nationals are not welcome in South Africa, thereby endorsing xenophobic attitudes.
A fundamental problem with the robust Operation Fiela raids lies in the fact that many of those arrested may, in fact, be legally entitled to refugee status or other Visas under South African law, yet are in possession of expired documents because of policies such as those referred to above. While the government continues to reiterate that xenophobia and xenophobic sentiments will not be tolerated, condemnation loses all meaning when accompanied by tacit condonation.

May 19, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

The quiet violence of refugee life: It’s not xenophobia – it’s just plain prejudice

Sally Hurt -19 May 2015 – Daily Maverick
Xenophobia, and the government’s response to it, is back in the headlines. The police, army and officials from the Department of Home Affairs have staged several joint operations under the banner of Operation Fiela-Reclaim, and while many South Africans have welcomed this very public show of force, it points to deeply-rooted prejudices within our state machinery.
The government and most recently ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, have insisted that Operation Fiela-Reclaim is not designed to target foreigners. But just after the operation launched earlier in May, over 700 foreigners were arrested in Johannesburg – 200 of them in one weekend. Over this past weekend, reports stated that 90 foreigners were arrested in Port Elizabeth, again under the auspices of Operation Fiela. Whether the raids are targeted or not, there has clearly been a disproportionate impact on a particular group: foreigners. This seems to point to deeply-rooted prejudices within our state machinery. These prejudices are not only evident in public displays of force, but also in the systemic inefficiencies and decisions taken by Home Affairs every day.
Away from the front pages of newspapers, there is a quiet violence in the lives of foreigners that we don’t talk about. It manifests in a system that forces someone to spend the night sleeping in a queue at Home Affairs in the hope that her asylum seeker permit is renewed the following day. A system that forces a woman to travel four days from Cape Town to Musina to get her permit renewed. She has no way of knowing whether this time it will be renewed for one, three, four or six months. There are no guarantees here.
In 2010, a decision was made to close down a number of Refugee Reception Offices (RROs); one of them being Cape Town’s RRO. The decision to close the RRO was successfully challenged in court by the UCT Refugee Rights Unit and Legal Resources Centre (LRC) Scalabrini v Minister of Home Affairs, where the SCA declared the decision to close the RRO unlawful. A similar decision was made regarding the RRO in Port Elizabeth. This was also recently successfully challenged in the Supreme Court of Appeal by Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) in Somali Association for South Africa v Minister of Home Affairs. However, Home Affairs has now taken that judgment on appeal to the Constitutional Court.
After its unsuccessful attempt to close the Cape Town RRO, Home Affairs simply made it increasingly difficult for asylum seekers to live in Cape Town. First, it decided to stop accepting new asylum seeker applications (this is also being challenged in court). This meant and means that if you are a newcomer, you have to apply for asylum seeker status in another office – currently Musina, Pretoria or Durban.
Then, in 2012, the Cape Town RRO decided to stop renewing permits that were originally issued at other offices. This effectively means the Cape Town RRO only needs to deal with outstanding claims and then it can eventually close.
The ‘other offices’ decision was also successfully challenged by the UCT Refugee Rights Unit in Abdulaahi v Minister of Home Affairs. Unfortunately, the relief offered by the judgment was limited to a set list of applicants. For those not on the list, a new court challenge, in Nbaya and Others v Minister of Home Affairs, was launched on 28 April 2015 by the LRC; but the case is yet to be decided. For now, if your name isn’t on the list and you’re an asylum seeker in Cape Town with a permit issued at another office, you’ll need to travel to Durban (1,635km), Pretoria (1,459km) or Musina (almost 2,000km) for renewals.
This means taking time off work or away from your family to travel. You’ll need money for the journey and you might lose your job if you’re away from work for too long. Your relatives are probably asylum seekers too – you’ll have to take your kids out of school for a few days at a time so they can also have their permits renewed. Then you have to repeat this process at arbitrary intervals depending upon the expiry date of your current permit. If you cannot make that trip, you risk being labelled an ‘illegal’; perhaps even one of the many ‘illegals’ arrested and detained in Operation Fiela, and simply listed in news reports alongside the number of counterfeit goods confiscated, or amount of illegal firearms seized.
Through all of this, you’re not welcome in Cape Town. There simply isn’t a system in place that allows you to settle and create a life in South Africa’s Mother City – you’re too busy coasting from one permit expiry date to the next. If you’re really lucky, it will take six months for your asylum seeker claim to be finalised. But it can also take up to ten years. The Refugees Act makes provision for asylum claims to be processed within 180 days of an application being received. We all know the difference between theory and practice, though. The inefficiencies in this process mean that as a country we’re selling ourselves short by not recognising the contributions made by migrants economically, culturally and through richness of diversity. (See here and here.)
I read a comment about homophobia once. It suggested we stop calling it ‘homophobia’ – that it was really homoprejudice. It’s not about fear, and labelling it as such absolves the perpetrators. It offers a convenient linguistic escape route so that we no longer have to look honestly at our preconceived opinions and unjust notions about another group. The same should be said about xenophobia. Yes, the dictionary definition says it is an intense dislike or fear of those from other countries, but having phobia in the word links it to fear. This is not about fear. It is about prejudice. It is about hate. It is about not seeing foreigners as fully human. These attitudes start at the top and manifest in a system that is failing some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
It is these quiet, often unnoticed, acts of violence that need to be confronted before we are able to properly and honestly face up to these unsettling public displays of force, control and hate.

May 18, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

The SA billionaire buying Britain’s High Street

May 17 2015 12:11 Chris Spillane and Janice Kew – News24
Johannesburg – If you spend any money on a British high street in the coming months, there’s a good chance you’ll be giving some of your cash to a billionaire you’ve never heard of.
Christo Wiese, a 73-year-old South African, expanded his empire on Friday with an agreement to buy New Look, the discount women’s clothing retailer, for £780m (R14.2bn). His Brait SE investment firm already owned a stake in the Iceland chain of frozen-food stores and last month signed a deal to buy UK health-club operator Virgin Active for $1bn (R12bn).
For Wiese, a native of South Africa’s arid Northern Cape province, the move into the UK is the latest step in a decades-long retail career. He began working at discounter Pep Stores and, after an interlude in diamond mining, returned as chairperson in 1980. Last year he agreed to sell the business for $5.7bn (R62.8bn) – which he celebrated with a barbecue – and is now buying retailers in British towns and cities.
“I still enjoy what I’m doing which is building businesses,” Wiese said in an interview last month. “I don’t play golf. I don’t have any particular passion apart from my business and my family and that gives me all the pleasure that I want.”
Brait is a publicly traded investment firm in which Wiese is the largest shareholder, with 35% of the shares and a seat on the board. He’s South Africa’s fourth-richest man, with a fortune of about $7.1bn, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index.
Currency decline
Brait is diversifying out of South Africa as local retailers struggle amid unemployment of 24%, prolonged labour disputes and high levels of personal debt that are squeezing household incomes. The rand also has lost 22% against the dollar in the past two years.
“Any sizable South African company over time is going to have to diversify outside South Africa because the outlook of the rand is weak and the long-term economic prospects are weighing on that,” said Wayne McCurrie, a money manager at Momentum Wealth. “Buying into New Look gives Brait more exposure to a stable currency and taps into the value offering that is expanding in the UK.”
Brait looks for businesses with strong market positioning, brands and management teams, and the potential for double-digit profit growth, said its South Africa Chief Executive Officer John Gnodde. The company still has around $800m to spend on acquisitions.
China expansion
“We’re in the business of finding good companies to invest in that have a good strong base, a good strong platform, that tick the boxes for us,” he said by phone. “And importantly that we can partner with over the long term.”
Part of the appeal of New Look lies in its expansion into China, which began in 2014. The company will have as many as 80 stores in China by the end of the financial year and also is targeting growth in Poland, Germany and France.
While Wiese says he doesn’t have any passions beyond his job, he has invested in two areas that are important to many South Africans: animal conservation and wine.
He owns a game reserve in the Kalahari desert and the 4 000-hectare Lourensford Wine Estate that’s a 45-minute drive east from Cape Town.
“The objective in owning that game reserve is first of all something for me to enjoy, and secondly to make a contribution to conservation,” Wiese said.

May 18, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

France calls for fair asylum seeker distribution

2015-05-16 News 24
Nice – The European Union needs a system of border controls and a way for asylum seekers to be more fairly distributed among EU member states, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday.
Nearly 1 000 migrants, many coming from Africa via Italy, were intercepted in southern France near the Italian border in the past three days, officials said at the weekend.
In response, border police forces and controls on highways, trains and buses and various check points have been beefed up, Valls said as he visited Menton, a Riviera town only a few kilometres from the Italian border.
“We need to create a European system of border controls,” Valls said, adding that France was making concrete proposals to Brussels on the matter.
“Asylum seekers need to be distributed among EU states more fairly,” he said, calling for a renewed crackdown on criminal networks profiting from the refugees’ travels.
Hunger and war
Valls said France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and the UK had accepted 75% of asylum seekers in Europe and that France “had already done a lot”, having welcomed already 5 000 from Syria and 4 500 from Iraq since 2012.
This week, the European Commission proposed quotas based on criteria such as states’ population, to more fairly distribute the asylum seekers following the strong influx. But Britain’s newly re-elected Conservative leaders rejected any quota system imposed from Brussels.
“I am against the introduction of quotas for migrants,” said Valls. “Asylum is a right, attributed according to international criteria… That is why the number of its beneficiaries cannot be subject to quotas, one is an asylum seeker or not.”
Valls said the EU faced a refugee crisis after over 3 000 people died and about 170 000 were rescued in the Mediterranean trying to reach European coasts in 2014, a wave he described as “more than twice the influx linked to the Arab Spring”.
Many of them are fleeing hunger and war in Africa and the Middle East.

May 18, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Vavi lays into ‘Operation Fiela’

2015-05-16 -Jeff Wicks, News24
Johannesburg – Former Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has slammed the state’s “Operation Fiela”, insisting that it feeds public perceptions that migrants are to blame for social ills.
The operation, jointly backed by arms of law enforcement and the South African National Defence Force, was aimed at “cleaning up criminal elements of society” and closely followed a wave of xenophobic violence that gripped the country.
A number of people were killed and thousands were displaced in the violence against African immigrants.
Vavi, speaking at the Yeoville Recreation Centre on Saturday, said that the operation had been ill-conceived.
“Its timing, coming in the wake of the violent attacks targeting in particular people of African origin, feeds into the misconceptions that migrants are to blame for all our social and economic ills. This unprincipled, opportunist and populist Operation Fiela is not ideologically neutral but seeks to pull wool on the eyes of the working class in South Africa,” he said.
“Its intention is to tell the 8.5 million unemployed, the 50% of African women who earn below R2 800 a month, the 60% of the youth that is unemployed, the 50% of workers earning below R3 033 a month, the women that are being raped and other victims of drugs and crime in Manenburg and elsewhere that all of these challenges would have not been there, if it was not the not documented migrants,” Vavi said.
“Xenophobia feeds on perceptions, and one of the commonest is that “foreigners” are taking jobs from South Africans.”
Vavi said that a coalition of thought was needed to address the crisis.
“That is why it is so urgent to develop ways to work together to confront the crisis afflicting our common existence, across borders which, especially in Africa, are not natural boundaries anyway, but artificially imposed creations of colonialism which now act as a barrier to the movement, interaction and unity of our people who have always shared a common history, culture, heritage and destiny.”
Migrant policies
“We need migration policies which will combat and ultimately eradicate xenophobia and racism, but combine them with socio-economic policies to tackle the underlying structural problems which give rise to these evils in the first place: Massive poverty for the majority and massive wealth for the few, with inevitable social tensions and profound crisis and more importantly, the centrality of class struggle.
“This economic crisis is compounded by the continued existence of undemocratic regimes, coups, civil wars and human rights abuses that also force people to migrate to seek refuge elsewhere.
“In Africa, migration policy must be part of a broader, comprehensive development plan for the continent, to reverse the persisting problems of underdevelopment and growing inequalities and human rights violations,” he said.
“We have to fight relentlessly against attempts to shift the blame for poverty and unemployment on our fellow African and Asian workers and make them scapegoats. We must link the dangers of racism and xenophobia to the underlying social crisis and turn people’s anger against their real enemy – the capitalist system of production, distribution and exchange.”

May 18, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Brics’ tourist numbers will rise

May 03 2015 15:00 Lloyd Gedye Fin24
South Africa is a key travel destination for tourists from its fellow emerging national economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, together known by the acronym Brics, according to a number of international buyers who will be jetting into Durban next weekend for the Tourism Indaba.
Harmandeep Singh Anand, the managing director of Indian company Jagsons Travels, expects the number of Indian tourists to South Africa to increase over the next few years as the political relationship between the countries improves and freedom of travel increases.
“We are promoting good numbers,” said Anand. “There are much better numbers to South Africa compared with last season, with longer itineraries.”
Christina Kler, business development executive for Brazilian travel company Designer Tours, said South Africa was one of its major travel destinations.
“South Africa is an amazing country that surprises everyone,” said Kler. “There is so much to do. As they say: ‘A world in one country.’”
Jagsons Travels has been in business since 1978 and is one of central India’s leading tour operators.
The 2015 Tourism Indaba will be Anand’s first, although his joint managing director attended about five years ago. That visit increased the company’s outbound traffic to South Africa and Kenya, as it enhanced Jagsons Travels’ knowledge of products and services.
But this will not be Anand’s first visit to the country. He has previously been a tourist in South Africa, experiencing Johannesburg, Sun City and Cape Town on a number of occasions.
“Cape Town was amazing and a must-visit,” he said. “We have started to promote a five-night stay, on average, in Cape Town as part of our itineraries,” he explained.
This year, Anand will be attending the indaba with the aim of improving his own knowledge.
“The Tourism Indaba is an important trade show for the region, as it gives us much-needed exposure and enhances our knowledge of the products and offerings from South Africa and other African nations, some of which we plan to include in our itineraries in the coming period,” Anand explained. He has already prescheduled about 10 meetings per day for his trip to Durban.
Designer Tours has been running since 1986 and specialises in “exotic destinations”, according to Kler.
“We are the top seller in Brazil for luxury honeymoons and weddings,” said Kler. “South Africa is a wonderful honeymoon destination for those who seek adventure.”
Kler noted Designer Tours was a regular at the indaba and it had always been a “good fair” where you could “find what is interesting in just one place”.
She would be meeting with existing partners but was also looking for something new in destinations such as Mozambique and Zanzibar.
“The first time I attended, it was such a good surprise,” she said. “So many interesting products are present.”
According to her, the indaba now has a lot more competition from other African trade shows, such as ILTM Africa, We Are Africa and WTM Africa.
“Each one has a different personality,” said Kler. “It is quite difficult to know which one suits what you are looking for; some are good for luxury products, such as ILTM, while others offer high-end experiences, such as We Are Africa.
“This will be my first indaba since all these other fairs started. But when I was booking my appointments for indaba, I found almost everyone I was looking for,” she added.
Kler said South Africa offered many options for all kinds of budgets.
“You can find extreme luxury and also options for backpackers with quite good quality and cost,” she said.
According to Kler, most Brazilians visited South Africa for wildlife safaris, and the country was also well known for its wines, food and other wildlife experiences – such as whale watching in Plettenberg Bay, diving with white sharks and the Garden Route.
So what are the key issues negatively impacting tourism trade with Brazil and India?
Anand said visa regulations remained the biggest issue for his company.
“Last season there were major visa-issuance delays and some of the new visa rules should definitely go, as they impact on the number of tourists applying for visas on shorter lead times,” said Anand.
Kler added that reports of Ebola outbreaks in west Africa had been the biggest negative in selling South Africa as a tourist destination to Brazilians