Archive from May, 2015
May 12, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

EU diplomat: Migrants will not be sent back against will

2015-05-11 – News24
New York – Refugees and migrants intercepted at sea will not “be sent back against their will,” the European Union’s top diplomat assured the UN Security Council on Monday, citing a proposed EU maritime operation against the growing wave of migrant smuggling from north Africa.
Federica Mogherini addressed the council as the 28-member EU prepares to start making decisions next week on an operation to identify, capture and destroy boats before they are used by migrant smugglers.
Stressing the urgency of the crisis as migrants continue to set off from the north African coast toward Europe and many die, Mogherini later told reporters that the EU is prepared to take certain steps before the council adopts any resolution authorising the operation – even as a draft was expected to circulate to all 15 council members within hours. She would not say what those steps are.
Concerns remained even among some council members that the migrants themselves will be harmed, sent back or not be allowed to seek better lives. “No one is thinking of bombing,” Mogherini said briskly.
When asked about Russia, which has opposed destroying smugglers’ boats, she said she had not found resistance from any council member.
But she said a lot of work remains on the council draft resolution, even though she was “quite confident” about political will in the council for the two main goals: Saving lives and combating the migrant traffickers, some of whom she said are “linked to, and sometimes finance, terrorist activities.”
The UN’s special representative for international migration told the council that about half of the people who reach Europe qualify as refugees. Peter Sutherland also praised a planned EU quota system where countries would share the refugee settlement burden, though finding the required agreement of all EU members is already a challenge. Some countries have already objected.
The EU’s executive Commission was to propose the plan Wednesday as part of a strategy to help frontline countries Italy, Greece and Malta cope with thousands of migrants. France’s top security official on Monday said his country supports the plan.
Mogherini said the “new agenda for migration” to be addressed Wednesday would also do more to increase search-and-rescue operations and allow for more legal pathways into Europe. Again, she did not give details.
“We know we have to tackle all aspects of this tragedy,” she said, but she also argued that “dismantling traffickers… is a way of saving lives.”
The crisis centers on Libya, which has fractured into two competing governments, and parts of the proposed EU operation on shore and in territorial waters would require permission from Libyan authorities. Mogherini said she met earlier on Monday with Libya’s UN ambassador, who last week largely rejected the plan and told The Associated Press that his country had not even been consulted.
She stressed repeatedly that the migrant crisis will require an effort larger than just the EU itself. “Europe has probably for once woken up,” she said. “We need the rest of the world to do its part as well.”

May 11, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home Affairs challenging order to reopen PE refugee centre

Ernest Mabuza – Timeslive – 06 May, 2015 10:31
The Department of Home Affairs has presented a number of reasons why it believed the Supreme Court of Appeal’s (SCA’s) order that it must reopen the Port Elizabeth refugee reception office by July 1 was incorrect.
The department has applied to the Constitutional Court to set aside the SCA’s order made on March 25.
Refugee reception offices provide services to those who want to apply for asylum in South Africa.
At the beginning of 2011 there were six such offices in the country, in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, Musina and Port Elizabeth.
Since then, the department has closed the Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town offices. The closure of these offices has been challenged in various courts.
The Somali Association of South Africa obtained a court order from the Grahamstown High Court in 2013 declaring that the decision in 2012 by the home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni to close the Port Elizabeth office was unlawful.
The court also directed the director-general to ensure that a refugee reception office in Port Elizabeth was open and fully functional by October 1 2013.
The department appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal against the judgment of Judge Willem Eksteen.
Apleni told the SCA that the most operationally strategic and convenient places to locate refugee reception offices were points of entry utilised by those entering the country. He said Port Elizabeth was not such a point of entry.
He said records indicated that those applying for asylum in Port Elizabeth hailed from China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Ethiopia and none of them used the city as a port of entry.
In its judgment in March, Judge of Appeal Visvanathan Ponnan said this case concerned the lawfulness of a decision by Apleni to ‘dis-establish’ an office which had been located in Port Elizabeth since 2000.
In her founding affidavit before the Constitutional Court, the department’s attorney Leonie Hart said the purpose of the powers in the Refugees Act was to ensure that there were as many refugee reception offices in South Africa as the director-general regarded as necessary for the purposes of the Act.
“The Act does not require the director-general to locate these [refugee reception offices] in any specific place,” Hart said.
She said the Port Elizabeth office serviced a comparatively small number of asylum seekers. She said in 2010, only 3% of new applications were processed at that office.
Lawyers for Human Rights, which represents the association, said it was in the process of preparing its papers to oppose the department’s application.

May 11, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Police raids accused of being ‘state-sponsored xenophobia’

RDM News Wire | 09 May, 2015
The Right2Know coalition has called on government to stop the current police raids conducted as part of the state’s anti-xenophobia campaign‚ branding them state-coordinated xenophobia.
The raids began two weeks ago following a spate of xenophobic attacks in the country which resulted in the death of seven people.
Police began the raids on xenophobic “hot spots”‚ including Jeppe Hostel in Johannesburg.
However‚ they have continued into residential areas and resulted in arrests of more than 400 people‚ mostly criminals and foreign nationals who were found to be in the country illegally.
The coalition has called on President Jacob Zuma to stop the raids‚ which it says have become an excuse for police harassment and brutality on foreign nationals.
In the early hours of Friday morning the SAPS‚ together with the army and officials from the Department of Home Affairs‚ raided an area in the Johannesburg CBD‚ which included a raid on the Central Methodist Church – a site which has long been a refuge for desperate and poor foreign refugees.
More than 400 people were reportedly arrested in the raid in the Johannesburg CBD.
This follows in the wake of the police raids‚ which were performed by regular police‚ the police tactical response unit‚ assisted by the army and accompanied by officials from home affairs‚ in the Thembelihle community last week.
Many members of the Thembelihle informal settlement near Lenasia‚ south of Johannesburg‚ have since reported that the police stole from them and brutally assaulted them during that raid.
“The SAPS’ official explanation for the raid on the Johannesburg CBD‚ similar to their justification for the raid on Thembelihle‚ has been that it was performed in order to target “criminal activities” in the area‚” said the coalition’s Gauteng coordinator Julie Reid.
“However‚ this then calls into question the presence of the army and the home affairs officials during the raids.
“The government has told us that the deployment of the army within the Johannesburg area is to assist the police with quelling the recent instances of xenophobic violence. But why employ the army and officials from home affairs to assist SAPS with operations which are aimed at targeting “criminal activities”?
Reid said It is clear that president Zuma is using the context of the xenophobic attacks and the presence of “illegal immigrants” in poor communities as an excuse to send in the police‚ the army and home affairs officials to target foreign nationals‚ while officials utter the words ‘criminal activity’ as a guise for what are really acts of xenophobia enacted by the government.
She said these measures by government‚ SAPS and the army only serve to exacerbate xenophobic tensions within the country and do nothing to solve them.
“The raid in Johannesburg took place at night‚ while people and children were sleeping – a frightening experience for the people who were targeted‚ especially the children.
“It is deplorable that a symbol of refuge like the Central Methodist Church should be the target of such a crude and brutal attack by the police. Attempts to determine how many refugee community members were arrested‚ or the reasons for their detention‚ have proved fruitless. Despite the presence of home affairs and immigration officers during the raid‚ many foreign nationals were reportedly arrested even though they were in possession of asylum papers’” Reid said.
She said the police in the Gauteng Johannesburg area are now openly and brazenly targeting foreign nationals‚ assisted by the army‚ in what can only be described as state-sponsored and state-coordinated xenophobia. – RDM News Wire, The Times

May 11, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Can tourism unite Africa?

2015-05-09 – Traveller24
Durban – While tourism growth of 2% for 2014 shows an increased interest in Africa – infrastructure development, visa facilitation, air connectivity and lack of financing all pose a risk to rapid growth.
These key issues formed the crux of a round-table ministerial discussion and debate on the current state of tourism in Africa, with a view of collectively formulating solutions to grow and develop tourism on the continent.
Hosted by SA Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom, and extended to thirteen African Ministers and key tourism industry players ahead of the Pan-African Tourism Indaba 2015 in Durban, Hanekom said the African market is undergoing unprecedented growth in tourist arrivals.
Stats show 56-million people chose to visit Africa in 2014, sparse however when compared to the 1.1 billion who travelled the globe in the same year.
The ministerial discussion focused on the State of Africa’s readiness for Tourism investment and constraints to investment promotion; the importance of the tourism sector towards building the economies of various regional economic communities; collaboration between public and private sector in growing tourism; visas and travel facilitation and ways of improving intra-African travel.
“Although the continent is overwhelmed by social and economic challenges, challenges such as the outbreak of Ebola and the recent attacks on foreign nationals have the potential to impact negatively on tourism on the continent. We have to rise against these challenges, and commit to work together to address them for the future of tourism,” said Hanekom.
A number of solutions were presented, with a sobering call made from Algiers for the African Union to include tourism on its agenda, in order to elevate tourism as the economic driver in the continent. It was also suggested that a dedicated AU team or organization be put together to manage ill-perceptions created by knee-jerk travel advisories issued against Africa countries – case in point being Ebola, where infections were only reported in West and central Afrca, yet tourism across the continent suffered.
Elcia Grandcourt, Regional Director for Africa at the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) added impetus to this by announcing that the UNWTO will host its first image and branding conference in Accra – Ghana with the view to impart skills within the continent, so it can better profile itself.
“Africa must work with Africa to advance tourism in the continent. Cultural and historical resources in Africa are not being adequately harnessed to lure tourists to Africa,” said Grandcourt.
But while Africa is fast establishing itself as one of the most promising regions for tourism, expecting to receive 85 million international tourist arrivals by 2020, key issues – such the Open skies policy to boost trade and travel as well as the call for uni-visa policies – need to move beyond the point of discussion towards action in order to ensure travel in Africa is made easier and safer.

May 11, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Skilled migrants find it daunting task to manage legal stay in SA

by Khulekani Magubane, 09 May 2015, Business Day Live
ERIC Foadey is a communications specialist, translator and conference interpreter from Senegal and assumes a grave expression as he opens up on regularising his stay in SA.
Despite living and working in SA for 12 years, Mr Foadey has yet to be issued permanent residence although he is entitled to it.
“If an application for something like permanent residence takes up to 10 months, it’s not fair. In fact, it instills a culture of fraud and corruption,” he says.
Mr Foadey is just one of many skilled migrants who find it a daunting task to manage their legal stay in SA. While the authorities, with assistance from the army, have begun rounding up undocumented foreign nationals in response to recent xenophobic tensions, documented migrants say they find it increasingly difficult to keep on top of the paper work.
Talla Niang, a businessman also from Senegal, says he had no difficulty in starting his business, the House of Baobab restaurant in Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. However, he says he has given up on his quest to get South African citizenship because of delays.
“I’ve been waiting since 2011 for my citizenship (papers). I have a green ID and permanent residence permit. The last time I called (home affairs about my citizenship) was over a year ago … I am just tired of them now. I called the helpdesk and they said they lost my document and they couldn’t track it on the system,” Mr Niang says.
Curiously, academics say administrative hurdles in the migrant system do not necessarily happen by accident. This could be explained by the fact that SA is still a top destination for asylum seekers.
Last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees told a parliamentary committee that SA had the third-highest number of asylum seekers after Germany and the US.
Earlier this week the Department of Home Affairs told MPs that 12% of the more than 75,000 asylum seekers who had applied for refugee status in SA last year were successful, a sign the system was being clogged up by economic migrants without a political claim to stay in the country.
However, this does not seem to account for the fact that many migrants continue to enter the country illegally, and few have critical skills SA needs.
On Wednesday, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said among plans to tighten up on illegal migration was the planned expansion of the immigration inspectorate to monitor businesses that employed undocumented migrants.
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) director Jakkie Cilliers says obligations placed on skilled migrants looking to live and work in SA are extremely onerous. This indicates that a “policy decision and political will” is behind the hurdles placed before skilled migrants.
But the gripes by African migrants underscore the difficulty many face in working in SA legally — along with the challenge the country faces in dealing with the large numbers of migrants, many of whom are economic migrants.
Even before the latest wave of attacks on foreigners, the government had already begun to impose measures restricting the numbers of migrants in SA. This is despite the African Union’s 2063 vision for the continent, underpinned by industrialisation and freedom of movement of goods and people.
Among the new measures, permit applications must be made in person, as a measure to mitigate against fraud. In addition, foreign nationals needing to switch from one visa type to another need to do so from outside SA.
“My experience is government policy has put as many hurdles in front of skilled migration as possible. At the ISS we often have to hire skilled staff. These are positions we cannot find South Africans to fill. Having seen what they go through, it is expensive and laborious.
“Government policy certainly does not facilitate skilled people coming into SA,” Mr Cilliers says.

May 11, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home affairs targets 2.2m smart IDs

By Nicola Mawson, ITWeb , 8 May 2015
The Department of Home Affairs aims to issue more than 2.2 million smart ID cards by the end of next March, as it steps up its modernisation plans.
In addition, South African citizens will be able to circumvent departmental queues when applying for the new cards by applying at banks, as this system – which will move into pilot phase shortly – should be live at branches across the country by, at the latest, March next year.
During his recent budget vote speech, home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba detailed key modernisation objectives for the 2015/16 financial year, and said the department would issue more than 2.2 million ID cards.
The department decided to use banks as an outlet to issue cards to speed up the process, as it needs to replace all 38 million ID books with the new, more secure, cards. In addition, it wanted to eliminate lengthy queues at home affairs offices.
Gigaba says this plan, dubbed e-channels, will allow clients to log on to the department’s Web site, apply for passports or IDs, pay funds electronically and book an appointment online. Once the citizen goes to the bank for an appointment, he or she will go to the counter allocated to home affairs officials, who will verify identities online and capture biometrics digitally.
A few days later, the ID or travel document will be available. Gigaba says this system will, in future, be rolled out to specific digitised offices.
On track
Spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete says the department is on track to kick off its plan to pilot issuing of cards via banks in July. However, this will only initially be available to bank staff at one branch in Johannesburg, and one in Centurion, and only through Standard Bank and First National Bank (FNB).
Tshwete notes all four big banks are now on board with the plan, with Absa having just recently signed a memorandum of understanding. He says, because Absa and Nedbank have only just come on board, Standard Bank and FNB are much further advanced in their plans.
The department had faced challenges around how the payments would work and into which account users would deposit funds, but this has now been clarified, says Tshwete. He adds citizens will also be able to make payments online, and then go to the bank to collect their new identity cards.
Further enhancements
Gigaba adds home affairs is also set to procure hardware for the development of a new Automated Fingerprint Identification System and begin upgrading the Electronic Movement Control System at ports of entry. This will allow the department to capture biometric data of all foreign nationals entering SA from January next year.
“It is essential that we establish an uninterruptible service network which will enable us to serve citizens irrespective of electrical and other faults,” says Gigaba.
Gigaba notes, however, none of the advances he discussed will deliver better services unless the department has access to reliable networks. “Recently, our clients have occasionally been frustrated by system disruptions and long queues at offices offering smart ID cards.”
To rectify this, the department has implemented several solutions, including a new disaster recovery site, installing generators at offices, and developing an offline mode which will allow it to continue serving customers for a short duration.
“Our e-channels strategy will also be helpful in this regard, in providing alternative channels for us to serve clients, thus expanding our footprint and minimising queues.”
Home affairs will also start piloting a payment system at the Edenvale office, says Gigaba. This will allow clients to pay for home affairs services with debit and credit cards, which will be rolled out to all 140 smart ID card offices by March 2016.

May 7, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Did you know Thabo Mbeki presided over SA’s highest economic growth rate in the past 35 years?

Marius Strydom – 06 May 2015 – SA Good News
The main measure of a country’s economic performance is the growth in its gross domestic product (GDP) from year to year in real terms (after allowing for inflation). This is often held up as the primary measure of success of a country, although it is important to look at issues such as poverty, GDP per capita, gini coefficient, education levels, crime, corruption and general happiness as well.
In this sagoodnews newsletter, I have a look at SA’s GDP growth performance over the past 35 years from 1980 to 2014. This period spans the 14 years prior to the end of apartheid and the 21 years thereafter. During this period we had five presidents and it was extremely eventful, especially during the period prior to and after the transition to majority rule. I include a very busy chart at the bottom– you may have to click on it to see all the useful detail.
During the entire 35 year period, SA had an average GDP growth of 2.4%, which puts us in line with developed economy growth rates and lagging behind developing economy growth rates,in some case meaningfully so (e.g. China).
The average growth during the final 14 years of apartheid was 1.6% and the average since majority rule has been 3.1%. The president that was at the helm when our economic growth was the highest was Thabo Mbeki who presided over an average growth rate of 4.1%. The lowest growth rate was an average of 0.6% during the tenure of FW de Klerk. Nelson Mandela at 2.7% outperformed PW Botha at 2.2% and under Jacob Zuma, we have seen average GDP growth of 1.7%, which has been particularly weak when compared with the much stronger growth under Thabo Mbeki.

Stability
The blame for weak economic growth is often placed at the feet of the government of the day and in many cases this is rightly so. It is the job of government to create an environment that is conducive to economic growth. First and foremost, it is important that a country is peaceful and that economic activity is not disrupted due to violence. The NP government prior to majority rule often failed to deliver this and it is no wonder that 3 out of the 4 recessions (periods of negative GDP growth) experienced by SA over the past 35 years fell during the pre-majority rule period.
The country has certainly become more peaceful over the past decade, but there are risks to the status quo, including xenophobic violence, service delivery protests and industrial action.
In addition to ensuring a peaceful environment, it is also important that government delivers an environment where industrial action by unions does not put undue pressure on the economy. This has been a recurring problem in SA, both prior to and after majority rule. However, this seems to have become a greater problem in SA during the presidencies of Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. The fact that the major union federation, Cosatu forms part of the governing alliance limits the ability of government to effectively crack down on industrial action, although it has facilitated long-standing agreements in the past.
It is time for such agreements to again be concluded to avoid continued disruptions in an environment of weaker economic growth.

FDI
One of the main reasons why economic growth recovered so strongly in the mid-1990s compared with the last decade of apartheid was that foreign direct investment (FDI) returned to the country after being forced out as a result of sanctions. Investment in SA continued well into the 2000s, but there are now clear risks to such investments continuing at the same pace. The main hurdles to FDI are industrial action, electricity supply and weak commodity prices. Other contributing factors that have been put forward as risks to FDI are uncertainty surrounding ownership requirements (especially in the mining sector) and corruption, although I consider these as secondary factors. In addition to forming a new compact with labour unions to limit industrial action, it is imperative that government and Eskom successfully deals with the electricity crisis that we are experiencing.

Commodity prices
By far the most important factor determining relative rises and declines in GDP growth over the past 35 years appears to have been commodity prices and whether those rose or fell in the preceding years. The recessions we saw over the past 35 years all seem to have been influenced by this. The 1982 to 1983 recession was preceded by a 30% fall in gold and platinum prices in 1981; prior to the 1985 recession, gold and platinum prices fell by around 20%; platinum prices fell by more than 30% over the 2 years prior to the 1992 recession; and our last recession in 2009 followed a collapse in the platinum price in 2008. It is also interesting to note that the average increase in gold and platinum prices during Mbeki’s presidency was over 12% while for de Klerk they declined on average, explaining to a large extent why Mbeki presided over the highest and de Klerk over the lowest average economic growth. Under Jacob Zuma, we have seen 2 years of declines in gold and platinum prices during 2013 and 2014 and this has not abated during 2015.
It is therefore important to see the weaker growth under president Zuma in this context.
However, one thing that the ANC government has not been able to sustainably achieve since majority rule in 1994 is to lift trend economic growth to new levels. GDP growth rate exhibited a brief period of strong growth during the mid-2000 (averaging 5.5% from 2005 to 2007), but this was more a result of high commodity prices than due to the necessary structural changes needed to sustain the trend. The main structural issues facing SA are a low savings rate, poor education outcomes, a lack of skills, cost and availability of labour (made worse by unions and industrial action), a strong and volatile currency and increasing pressure on infrastructure (especially electricity supply).
In addition, in an environment where commodity prices are under pressure (and could remain under pressure), it highlights the need for SA to reduce its dependency on raw commodity exports. It is imperative that more is done to add value to raw commodities before exporting them while at the same time investing in parts of the economy that are less dependent on commodity prices.

Action?
Now is a time for action, but the problem seems to be that government is either;
1) satisfied with the status quo in certain areas (most problematic is education outcomes);
2) is having to operate in crisis mode (electricity supply);
3) is experiencing bottle necks with programmes that could make a difference (the National Development Plan);
4) or is taking steps that decrease (cadre deployment) or not taking steps (fighting corruption) that could increase efficiency.
As I have highlighted in a previous newsletter, the SA government is akin to an undervalued share. To revalue, we either need performance to improve from current management (think of your legacy President Zuma), we need new management to come in (start speaking out and doing more vice President Ramaphosa), or we need a hostile take-over (more power to the opposition).
I believe that the odds are in favour of moves in the right direction on all three of these fronts, but I am concerned at the time it may take to lead to positive outcomes.
What do you think? Do you accept that weak commodity prices have been a serious drag on our economic growth? Do you have other ideas for lifting trend-growth in SA? Do you think the ruling party will feel the necessary pressure to improve the situation? Do you believe they are capable? I would love to see your feedback.
In the meantime, keep your talking straight!

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