Archive from November, 2016
Nov 29, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Home Affairs office routinely loses asylum document

Home Affairs office routinely loses asylum documents
2016-11-29 – GroundUp
Pretoria – Peter, 33, wakes up at 03:00 to catch the train to the Marabastad refugee centre in Pretoria to renew his permit which will have expired by the end of the day. He lives in Tsakane, 80km away.
At the Brakpan train station he catches the 04:00 train. He arrives at the Bosman station in Pretoria an hour later and walks to the centre, meeting fellow refugees along the way.
By 06:00, Peter is standing outside the centre. He is one of the first 50 people to arrive. On this day only Zimbabwean and Congolese nationals are being served. Other days are set apart for people from other countries. Peter is Congolese.
Peter waits for the “bin” in which he can place his expiring document so it can be renewed. The bin is a large box which officers at Marabastad introduced earlier in 2016. Its purpose is to ease the pressure of having to deal with thousands of refugees on a personal level. Peter and other refugees wait patiently.
Just before 08:00, the bin is brought out. The refugees take turns placing their asylum papers in it. The first renewed papers are called out at 11:00.
The officer stands behind a wall on a high pillar, facing the crowds outside. Congolese on the left and Zimbabweans on the right. When the officer calls out a name, a hand is raised and the permit is passed on to the owner.
But Peter’s name is not called out. His document is missing and so are the papers of about 30 other people.
They stare at the wall hoping that the officer will appear with their papers. It is already 16:00, closing time. What could have happened to their papers, they ask each other in confusion.
“I am very disappointed by this situation. How can the officers not know what happened to my permit when I put it inside the box? Everyone saw me. It’s not easy to travel early in the morning all the way from Tsakane all for nothing,” says Peter.
“I borrowed money from my friend to come here. Coming back again is out of the question. And how can I work without my asylum?”
Cannot find my permit
Many other refugees have suffered the same fate on different dates. A nearby food vendor estimates the number at 200.
The officials who call out the names claim that the submitted papers were not in the home affairs building. The officers suggest that asylum seekers whose permits were not called get an affidavit signed at a police station.
On this affidavit they need to explain what happened and include their file numbers, to enable their permits to be reprocessed.
Some refugees report that their files were apparently moved to other branches due to a backlog at this centre. They managed to get their papers back on subsequent dates.
But not everyone gets their papers back, at least not quickly.
“I have been coming for two weeks now and nothing. They cannot find my permit inside,” says one woman.
She travelled from Elandsfontein, with her child on her back.
“Travelling with a child early in the morning and spending the whole day standing is not easy.
“Yesterday an officer wrote our names down, saying they will check for us. But today again they haven’t found anything. I really wonder what is going on here. Police arrest us if we do not produce our asylum permits. What if they decide to arrest me when I go and make an affidavit? I can’t risk it,” she says.
Machines offline
A security guard at the centre says it is “hectic” inside. He says the increasing number of asylum seekers are making the workload “a bit too much”, resulting in the loss of documents.
“Worse still, the machines for printing asylum papers are always offline. Honestly you can’t blame them,” he says.
“Maybe it would be better if they decentralised the duties of the refugee centre to other home affairs centres around the country. It should ease the pressure here at Marabastad,” he says.
There is additional pressure on Marabastad because of the closure of home affairs facilities to process asylum seekers in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.
There are also rumours that fraudsters steal asylum papers from the box, so they can sell them back to the owners.
GroundUp sent questions to Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, but received no response.

Nov 24, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Time to take Home Affairs to court, says Satsa

Time to take Home Affairs to court, says Satsa
23 Nov 2016 – Tourism Update
Satsa CEO, David Frost will urge that the issue of the unabridged birth certificate requirement be taken to court, at the upcoming TBCSA board meeting.
Satsa will take up the issue of unabridged birth certificates at the upcoming Tourism Business Council of South Africa board meeting on December 6 and and will urge that the matter be taken to court.
“It is my considered opinion that the only way we will actually get the truth to be considered on the issue of unabridged birth certificates is in a court of law,” said David Frost, Satsa CEO, in a newsletter to the trade. Frost previously told Tourism Update that the association had already sought an opinion from senior legal counsel on the matter.
Frost said Satsa had met with the Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, together with senior leaders from the industry, and had come up with a number of solutions on the issue of congestion at OR Tambo International Airport. He added that attempts to meet with the Department of Home Affairs to table these issues had been met with contempt and said “the plight of visitors to our country continues to be disregarded”.

Nov 22, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Angolan refugees get extension

Angolan refugees get extension
21 November 2016 – The New Age
Angolan refugees, some of whom have lived in South Africa for 20 years, have about two months left to apply for permanent residence or be deported back to their home country.
This was an order made by the Western Cape High Court after a lengthy litigation process dating back to 2013 when the Department of Home Affairs announced it was revoking refugee statuses as Angola was no longer a war zone.
The department said the circumstances that recognised Angolans as refugees no longer existed, therefore SA no longer had an obligation to protect them.
As of that time, the Angolan refugees were given two years to work and study in SA while preparing to go back home.
When their cessation permits were no longer valid they automatically became illegal immigrants.
According to the Legal Resources Centre, which took the matter to court on behalf of Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town and a number of Angolan nationals, as part of the order, all Angolans who have held Angolan cessation permits are now able to submit applications for permanent residence and are exempted from paying the usual application fee.
This was an agreement reached between the refugees and the Department of Home Affairs.
“The negotiated settlement allows for former Angolan refugees falling into this category to submit further documents to the Department of Home Affairs in order to attempt to regularise their stay in SA and apply for permanent residency,” the organisation said.
Welcoming the court order, Scalabrini Centre said an entire generation of children born to Angolan parents have grown up in SA and this was the only country they had ever known.
“Although by now all ACP permits have expired, the police and home affairs have agreed not to arrest, detain or deport any Angolans who have an ACP permit. Angolans in possession of these permits are encouraged to carry their permits and a copy of the court order with them at all times.” The deadline for applications is January 20.

Nov 21, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Stateless Shakgane from Soweto wants to be someone

Stateless Shakgane from Soweto wants to be someone
19 November 2016 – Saturday Star
Johannesburg – At 23, Dineo Shakgane, a Soweto resident, is unable to open a bank account or apply to study further. She can’t buy a SIM card or even enter a reality show competition.
She does not have an identity document. She has no citizenship, she is a citizen of nowhere.
Shakgane was born in Klerksdorp, west of Joburg, in 1993 to a mother who was from Lesotho and a father who she was told was South African.
“I don’t know my father. I just know that he was from Matatiele, Eastern Cape. I lost contact with him after my mother passed away in 2000,” Shakgane said, speaking after knocking off at the Rockville, Soweto NGO where she works as a cleaner and cook. It’s a piece job – she doesn’t have the papers to apply for a proper job.
She was recently told her father died in 2009, a rumour she has been unable to confirm. She never knew him, but wishes he was still alive, as a last hope to prove her identity.
Shakgane is one of the estimated 10 million people worldwide believed to be stateless by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
Statelessness, according to the UN, refers to “a person who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law. Some people are born stateless, but others become stateless”.
“My family, particularly my brother (who has a different father), have been trying to help me get South African citizenship. We were told I have to prove I was born here. I should get proof from the hospital, the schools I went to and find a family member who can vouch for me. I gave Home Affairs the documentation I had, but that failed because they say there’s a discrepancy – so my application was rejected,” Shakgane said.
The Home Affairs letter questions why she doesn’t have the same family name as the relatives who vouched for her.
It recommends an appeal process to prove the relationship between her mother and grandmother – although both are dead.
“It’s a hopeless situation,” she said, but she will appeal. She said she “wants to be someone”.
Shakgane’s aunt, Mpho Mokoena, who has been her guardian since her mother’s death, said raising an undocumented child has been a struggle. “It has been difficult. We even had statements from priests supporting her application, but it was tough,” Mokoena said.
Liesl Muller from Lawyers for Human Rights said the law is flawed. “The Births and Deaths Registration Act and its regulations desperately need to be changed. They are causing children in South Africa to become stateless by denying them birth certificates. Then we need a dedicated legal measure to provide a remedy for stateless people,” Muller said.
Speaking on Shakgane’s case, Muller said she would be technically eligible for SA citizenship, but the challenge would be to prove her identity.
“South African law allows her to get SA citizenship through her father. And she can get Lesotho citizenship through descent through her mother. The problem seems to be proof. If neither country acknowledges her citizenship, she will be stateless. Because she’s a resident in South Africa she can approach a South African court to declare her citizenship if she can prove on a balance of probabilities that she is South African,” Muller said.
For now, the future for Shakgane is unknown. “I can’t even compare myself to a foreigner, because a foreigner has an identity. The only place I have ever called home is South Africa. I don’t know anyone in Lesotho,” she said.
“My peers are at school, they are succeeding in life. I am just a human being, merely living, but I can’t get started. Sometimes I ask myself what’s the point of living,” she said.

Nov 21, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Open letter to South African home affairs minister

Open letter to South African home affairs minister
CAGE Africa – November 18, 2016

Dear Honorable Minister Malusi Gigaba,
We note with concern your pronouncements reported by Reuters news agency on Friday, 11 November stating that there are militant “sleeper” cells in South Africa. We note that you have not provided any proof to justify your statements, and have alluded to increased securitisation and surveillance of Muslim communities as a result.
We also note the positive relationship that has existed so far between Muslim communities and the South African government and security services. We are concerned that this relationship be maintained.
However, as an organisation dedicated to campaigning for the rights of communities impacted by the War on Terror, we have found that such statements and the consequent securitisation of communities have a detrimental effect, not only on national unity – by fostering an unfounded fear and hatred of Islam – but also on Muslims themselves, especially the youth.
We have found through our work that Muslims, especially young Muslims, who feel increasingly under the eye of the security services, are more likely to self censor themselves on issues such as Palestinian activism and the current horrific situation in Syria.
Left with no legitimate space to vent their feelings, they can resort to searching for other alternatives, which can be dangerous. In short, securitization and surveillance of communities, is divisive, as is the banning or criminalisation of organisations. It leads to alienation and anger, which leads to a greater propensity for violence. This trajectory is surely familiar to you given the history of the ANC in South Africa.
Moreover, on the global stage, vague definitions of “terrorism” also mean that legitimate dissent from the mainstream is criminalised. What is and isn’t terrorism is subjective and open to manipulation, especially by foreign powers. This is surely a familiar state of affairs to you as well.
You mentioned that you did not want South Africa being dragged into other people’s battles. Adopting the current US approach, which casts Muslims as a threat, is surely doing just this.
It is important for our sovereignty and the independence of the constitution, that the government resists any pressure from outside the country, to play ball in the US led global campaign, that is the ‘War on Terror’.
Finally, we invite you to visit a mosque or talk to respected Muslim groups, in order to build and further a constructive dialogue with the community of Islam.
Yours sincerely,
CAGE Africa

Nov 21, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Acsa: It’s about time

Acsa: It’s about time
17 November 2016 – Financial Mail
Frequent fliers who face morose officials, long queues, intrusive probing and the prospect of their travel plans blowing up in the face of officious immigration bureaucrats might soon shave a few minutes off this experience at OR Tambo International Airport.
Airports Company SA (Acsa) wants to halve the average time spent in airport security lines. This comes as the business sector closely watches the effect congestion at SA’s busiest airport has on the bottom line, and at a time of some turbulence at Acsa itself.
OR Tambo general manager Bongiwe Pityi says Acsa is piloting the use of full body scanners until January, as well as carousel scanning for luggage that is similar to the carousels from which passengers collect their belongings post-flight.
“The international waiting time in terms of airport security is 10 minutes,” says Pityi. “At all our company-owned airports we adopted a five-minute waiting time, [and] with this technology we hope to meet that.”
The system will mean metal detectors are no longer used, and passengers will probably not be required to remove laptops from their bags or undergo invasive body searches. The body scanners will use an avatar of the scannee, and identify areas on a computer-generated body image that require further investigation.
But the system could be costly. Because Acsa is still facing uncertainty over airport tariffs — a final determination is expected by the end of 2016 — it is problematic to plan for operational improvements .
Acsa COO Tebogo Mekgoe says such projects carry some risk, which is difficult to explain to authorities.
Speaking to the Financial Mail, Mekgoe says the cost of the pilot system is R35m, including all equipment and training, with feasibility studies to be conducted. In the case of the scanners, all significant role-players, including airlines, have been involved from the beginning.
From a regulatory side, those determining the tariffs will not look at a specific project, and such security improvements will be integrated into Acsa’s plans as a whole, Mekgoe says. “They wouldn’t necessarily evaluate the project on its own; they are evaluating it as a business model.”
Acsa is tight-lipped about concerns over festive-season congestion, as well as internal investigations into alleged supply chain management irregularities after a forensic probe fingered top executives. Last week Acsa suspended three executives pending disciplinary hearings, though CEO Bongani Maseko remains in his position pending further investigations.
Despite attempts at operational efficiencies, Acsa is facing the prospect of additional festive-season congestion.
This, along with confusion over requirements for travellers to have abridged birth certificates for minors, could have cost SA R7.5bn in tourism revenue between July 2015 and July 2016, the Tourism Business Council of SA (TBCSA) estimates.
The council estimates that queuing for immigration at OR Tambo from October 1-18 2016 took up to four hours, causing multiple flight delays and about 800 passengers to miss their flights. At present, not more than 40% of immigration counters can be filled by home affairs personnel, and some passengers have complained on social media of seeing only one or two desks operating at a time. Home affairs’ own implementation of new technology was being “impeded by the austerity measures imposed on the department by national treasury, to the effect that no further recruitment of human resource capacity is authorised for the foreseeable future,” says home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni.
TBCSA CEO Mmatšatši Ramawela says progress is being made in addressing the issue. “There is an appreciation … of a need to sort out this shortage issue,” she says.
TBCSA, which has met with treasury and the tourism department, has proposed its own short-term measures “to mitigate the impact of queuing”. These include using ushers to assist those standing in queues and help with luggage issues, and the provision of entertainment, food and beverages to those in queues.
Numerous other long-term proposals have been made, and some progress is expected in the next two weeks, says Ramawela.

Nov 21, 2016 - Business Permit    No Comments

Gordhan urges South Africans to turbo-charge efforts

Gordhan urges South Africans to turbo-charge efforts
Nov 15 2016 – Fin24
Johannesburg – South Africans need to “turbo-charge” their efforts, ideas and financial resources to create greater economic momentum, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said at the Discovery Leadership Summit 2016 in Sandton on Monday.
In his view there needs to be a revolution in SA’s business culture.
“We need national consensus that our inequality is unacceptable, our economic participation rate is unacceptable and our unemployment rate is unacceptable,” said Gordhan.
Gordhan focused on the need for economic growth to be supportive, rather than disruptive, and for it to be as inclusive as possible. Questions should be asked about who benefits from gross domestic product growth, he suggested.
Business ethics need to be raised so that there is a definite “no-go zone” across all areas of the public and private sectors. He said leaders need to do some serious reflection and promote economic inclusivity in a more organised and structured way to enable more people to enter the economy and “make go of it”.
At the same time South Africans should be proud of their fiscal sovereignty, but must now work together towards finding their own ways to generate economic growth through improving confidence, increasing investment and deepening inclusivity.
“We can be very proud that we don’t borrow from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – we get this from having a tax-paying culture, the conscientiousness of our citizens and an effective tax and treasury administration system,” he said.
“Our collective focus now has to be to grow our economy. The key is to create unity of purpose. We need to have a culture of sharing, contributing and benefiting.”
Gordhan said South Africa has many good things going for it and has big opportunities for growth in areas such as agriculture, tourism, the oceans economy, science, and space technology and infrastructure development.

“What kind of country do we want? There is a rich mix available to us, depending on the choices we make,” he said.
“It is important for us to do a lot better at implementation – we are good talkers. The National Development Plan is not lost, it is incorporated into the medium-term budget policy framework, but it needs to be pushed more assertively. Become active, become involved, become aware – it is our constitution, it is our country, our future.”