Archive from March, 2018

New e-visas set to begin roll-out in SA at end of March 2019

2018-03-22 – The South African

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA –: Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba during the South African Revenue Services preliminary revenue collection results announcement on April 03, 2017 in Pretoria, South Africa. SARS commissioner Tom Moyane revealed the revenue collected R1.14-trillion during the 2016/17 fiscal year.
Sick of all the paperwork every time you travel to South Africa? Well, E-visas could soon make your lives a whole lot easier. Home Affairs seems to agree too…
The Department of Home Affairs has confirmed that phase one of a rollout of electronic visas (e-visas) will begin on 31 March 2019.
While some of the final details are still up in the air, a parliamentary reply from Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba has revealed more about what travellers can expect.
What exactly is an e-visa?
While we’re sure some foreign nationals had hope regarding being free of paperwork, Gigaba says some will still be involved. It is 2018 not 2035, folks…
“eVisa introduces online capture of visa and permit applications and capturing of applicant’s biometrics in South Africa and abroad. An application will be captured and submitted online together with the required supporting documents that will be scanned and attached to the application. The applicant will then present himself/herself before a DHA Official for
biometric enrolment and verification of the supporting documents.”
Following the verification of those documents, all the relevant forms are electronically routed to the Home Affairs head office in Pretoria for adjudication. For an approved visa/permit, a secure QR-Code is generated for print on the notification notice/letter sent to the applicant. This QR-Code contains the approved visa/permit detail and is maintained and managed by DHA at a “secure web-storage facility”.
That very same QR-Code will then be scanned upon arrival here in SA.
The e-visa rollout plan
Beginning with what the department is calling “Phase one, release one”, applications for temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas and applications for waivers will be done through the new system.
The rollout of phase one of the e-visa system will be at a foreign mission, embassy or local Home Affairs office yet to be determined.
“This is to ensure system stability. Once table, more offices locally and abroad can then be gradually brought online,” Gigaba said
According to DA Shadow Minister of Tourism James Vos, these modern-day visas will have big positives for the tourism industry.
“Electronic visas will boost the tourism industry by cutting turnaround times for the issuing of travel documentation while ensuring the information of applicants is secure.”
“Most importantly, improved tourist arrivals will facilitate more job growth in the industry while guaranteeing job security for 1,4 million South Africans already working in the tourism industry.”
Let’s hope the new system has tourists flocking to SA in bigger numbers than ever before.

South Africa introducing electronic visas

Mar 27, 2018 – Biometric Update
South Africa’s Department of Home Affairs (DHA) confirmed that the first phase of the electronic visa system will be piloted by the end of March 2019. According to a Business Tech report, this will make it easier for tourists to enter the country thanks to the online visa and permit application process and capturing of applicants’ biometrics both locally and abroad.
The rollout of the first phase of the e-visa system is expected to take place at a foreign mission, embassy or local DHA office and the pilot will initially cover temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas, applications for waivers, applicant notifications and biometric details.
“The rollout programme will be gradual starting with Phase 1, which entails applications for temporary residence visas, adjudication of temporary residence visas, applications for waivers, notifications to the applicant via email and biometrics captured at the Mission,” explained Member of Parliament for the Democratic Alliance and Shadow Minister of Tourism James Vos.
“Electronic visas will boost the tourism industry by cutting turnaround times for the issuing of travel documentation while ensuring the information of applicants is secure,” added Vos. “Most importantly, improved tourist arrivals will facilitate more job growth in the industry while guaranteeing job security for 1.4 million South Africans already working in the tourism industry.”
According to Gloria Guevara Manzo, President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the implementation of biometrics technology to facilitate secure borders is the single biggest opportunity for the travel and tourism sector in 2018.

SCA dismisses Gigaba’s appeal against Oppenheimers’ VIP terminal

2018-03-28 – News 24

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s bid to overturn his own decision to let Fireblade Aviation Oppenheimer operate a private VIP terminal at OR Tambo International Airport was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
“The minister cannot rely on his own unlawful attempt to circumvent the decision he had lawfully made to grant Fireblade’s application,” Wednesday’s judgment handed down by Judge Malcolm Wallis read.
“The application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs,” concluded Wallis, with Acting Judge Hughes concurring.
The court battle was launched in November 2016 by Fireblade when the minister appeared to do an about-turn on granting Fireblade the permission for the VIP section.
The application sought to have the court declare that approval for the terminal – allegedly granted by Gigaba in early 2016 – could not be renounced.
Gigaba and the director-general of Home Affairs had asked the Supreme Court of Appeal for special leave to appeal a judgment in 2017 by Judge Sulet Potterill that the company, owned by the Oppenheimer family, be allowed to run a high-end private aircraft travel and customs and immigration service at the airport for business people.
The South African Revenue Service and the Department of Home Affairs would provide customs and immigration services akin to other privately-owned airports such as Lanseria, north of Johannesburg.
Gigaba had initially granted permission, according to the previous hearing, but then denied this. He said that it had only gone as far as all of the interested parties agreeing to the proposal.
Fireblade challenged this and won, so the minister, the department and Denel applied for leave to appeal the judgment. Potterill refused them leave to appeal, and also ordered that Fireblade’s right to continue business stay in place, in case the department appeals in a higher court. Usually a court decision is put on hold pending the finalisation of an appeal.
However, Wednesday’s judgment read: “Potterill J’s grant of an order in favour of Fireblade was based upon two documents in which it was recorded clearly and contemporaneously that on 28 January 2016 the minister had granted the approval sought and signed a letter to that effect to be forwarded to Fireblade.
No prospects for success
“The accuracy of these documents, one of which was a letter addressed personally to the minister, was not challenged at the time. Instead, when the third respondent (Denel) raised an issue, the minister in his own handwriting noted that Fireblade be informed that ‘the approval we granted them is also suspended’,” Wallis continued.
“The underlining was his. His subsequent attempts to explain that he had not granted Fireblade the approval it sought, but merely indicated that ‘the major stakeholders have indicated that the project can go ahead’ were inconsistent with these documents and we cannot fault the judge’s rejection of them, subsequently endorsed by the full court.”
In the judgment on Wednesday, Wallis ruled that Gigaba and the director-general had no prospects of success in their application to appeal the Fireblade ruling.
Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the minister and department were studying the judgment so will not comment on its contents immediately.
But Tshwete said the department is abiding by Potterill’s order and the aviation services and immigration offices are operating at Fireblade’s terminal.

Shoddy treatment by Home Affairs wrecks families

27 March 2018 – Groundup
Refugees at the Home Affairs Office on Cape Town’s Foreshore have described how getting their children legalised was a slow and frustrating process. Some said they had been struggling since last year with the family-joining process.
Family joining means granting refugee status (or a similar secure status) to family members “accompanying a recognised refugee”, explains the University of Cape Town’s Refugee Rights Unit at its Law Clinic.
Lack of transparency and arbitrary policies fail to protect families of refugees, says civil society organisation
A DRC refugee, who did not wish to have her name published, told GroundUp she was left heartbroken when a primary school in Parow refused to enrol her seven-year-old for grade one because the child is undocumented.
“My child will likely miss school next year [as well]. I have been to Home Affairs Foreshore more than five times … I never got a chance to get inside the offices. The officials have been telling me, ‘Come back tomorrow’. When I return the following day, it is the same story. I am tired,” she said.
The Scalabrini Centre says it has had 530 people approach its offices for assistance with family joining since 2013.
In December, Scalabrini, represented by the Law Clinic, obtained an order from the Cape High Court ordering Home Affairs to file an affidavit with the court by 31 January. The affidavit must describe the “national policies, administrative procedures and training of staff” that ensure that dependants of refugees are properly dealt with in terms of the Refugee Act.
Home Affairs asked for more time on 2 February.
Corey Johnson, an advocacy officer at Scalabrini, said Home Affairs often didn’t give reasons why it turned away refugees trying to join their families. Sometimes an official might give a reason why they were refused, but it was not in writing. The lack of a straight-forward policy means refugees can’t realise their rights and this goes against the Refugee Act and the Constitution.
“The Refugee Act provides that a person is a refugee if he or she is dependent on a recognised refugee – a provision which is consistent with South Africa and international refugee and human rights instruments, as well as with policies of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees,” Johnson explained.
Dependents included spouses, unmarried dependent children, and destitute, aged or frail family members.
According to Scalabrini it has had to try and intervene to help asylum seekers whose family life is threatened by deportation, despite them being dependents of a recognised refugee.
Home Affairs persistently uses arbitrary policies and procedures to deny protection to refugees who wished safely and legally to remain together as families, Scalabrini said in court papers.
“Having fled their homes and families in conditions of chaos, war, or persecution, most asylum seekers are vulnerable and ignorant of their rights. They are unrepresented and uniformed when interviewed by the authorities. They may not know when or whether their family members will join them or even if those family members are still alive,” the Scalabrini Centre stated in court papers.
A refugee couple from the DRC with two children of school-going age told GroundUp: “Today is a third day my children have missed school. The officials keep on telling me to return tomorrow and they do not give an appointment letter. So every time I return I have to start from scratch.”
A Rwandan woman, who said she got her refugee status in 2002, has been trying since July 2017 to register her child. “Every time I get here they turn me away saying come back next month … I got frustrated and sought help at the UCT law clinic, who gave me a letter that I came with today.”
Esther Basila from DRC sought legal assistance from PASSOP (People against Poverty and Suffering). She and other refugees had their names and phone numbers written down by a Home Affairs official on 5 March 2017. She has never been contacted.
Basila lives in Malmesbury. Each time she travels to the Foreshore office with her three children, aged 12, 16 and 18, it costs her R150.
Anthony Muteti, a Zimbabwean with Voice of Africans for Change said, “My five year old child is unregistered. When I first took her for family joining she was a few months old. The official said I should bring the baby back when she turns five so that they are able to capture her biometrics. Since then, I have been going up and down to Home Affairs.”
“I do not understand why the process takes long because the information is readily available in the files,” said Muteti.
Home Affairs was contacted several times to explain the family joining process procedure and why it is time consuming, but there was no response.

SA intervenes after Lesotho king was ‘mistreated’ at border

27 March 2018, IOL
Pretoria – South African senior government officials were on Tuesday, intervening to quell a diplomatic spat with neighbouring Kingdom of Lesotho after King Letsie III was “mistreated” at the border between the two nations.
“I’ve just had a meeting now with the foreign minister of Lesotho. As you know, we are experiencing problems at the border. The king of Lesotho is extremely aggrieved by the way he was treated at the border. I have expressed to him my sincerest apologies for this,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said in Pretoria.
“I have indicated to him that I will personally go to Lesotho to apologise to the king for any mistreatment he might have encountered at our border.”
Sisulu said Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba was on Tuesday evening travelling to the border as part of the high level intervention, amidst reports that aggrieved Basotho are planning to block the busy border post.
“He [Gigaba] is on his way to the border post so that he can deal with some of the administrative problems that have been brought to our attention by the government of Lesotho,” said Sisulu.
South Africa’s top diplomat met her Lesotho counterpart on an urgent basis, at the conclusion of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers hosted in Pretoria.
“We are very concerned about what might happen there [at the border post] and therefore we needed to ensure that we can normalize the situation. The complaint from the king was uppermost in his mind,” said Sisulu.

Committee plans to shed light on Gupta citizenship

28 March 2018 – News24

Parliament is pushing to get to the bottom of the controversial decision by the Department of Home Affairs to grant some members of the Gupta family South African citizenship.
The home affairs portfolio committee agreed on Tuesday to institute a full-scale inquiry into the matter. DA MP Haniff Hoosen had earlier presented to other members of the committee documents suggesting that more than five members of the Gupta family had been naturalised, which contradicted statements by the department.
In March, home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni said that of the five Guptas who applied for naturalisation‚ four members of the family‚ excluding Ajay Gupta‚ were naturalised after they fulfilled the requirement to renounce their Indian citizenship, given that India does not allow dual citizenship.
He said that Ajay “only holds a permanent residence permit”.
This contradicted the version presented by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba’s predecessor, Hlengiwe Mkhize‚ who previously stated that two Gupta brothers‚ Atul and Ajay‚ were granted citizenship based on their business investments and social partnerships. “The consideration to grant citizenship to the family was based on the business investments and social partnerships as highlighted in the Oakbay company letter,” Mkhize said in Parliament late in 2017.
MPs across the national political spectrum agreed that the matter needed to be interrogated further and to call department officials and Gigaba to account.
The process was likely to begin soon after Parliament’s Easter recess.
ANC MP Maesela Kekana said the committee needed to move swiftly to get to the bottom of the processes followed in granting the Guptas early naturalisation. “I have read the documents and I think there is a case to answer … this is a matter of public interest,” he said.
Hoosen said the DA had revealed that several more members of the Gupta family were granted citizenship.
“This information was never revealed or reported to Parliament, as is required by law.
“In addition to this, minister Gigaba and his department only explained the circumstances surrounding the naturalisation of five Gupta family members, when there was in fact a further six members of the Gupta family that are South African citizens and registered as voters on the IEC database. But attempts by opposition parties to get the ball rolling on an inquiry were frustrated by the former chairman of the portfolio committee, Mr [Lemias] Mashile,” said Hoosen.

Home Affairs defying court order, says LRC

Five years of court battles to get Home Affairs to honour constitutional rights of refugees
Groundup – 14 March 2018
Home Affairs has defied a Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruling that required its director-general to make frequent reports on the steps being taken to reopen a fully functional Refugee Reception Office in Cape Town, says the Legal Resource Centre (LRC).
On 30 January Home Affairs told GroundUp that a new refugee office for Cape Town is on its way. Spokesperson David Hlabane said the department had written to Public Works to get a suitable building for the refugees’ office “to give effect to the court order and to ensure that all the needs of refugees and asylum seekers are properly met”.
The Cape Town Refugee Office (CTRRO) in Maitland was shut down by Home Affairs in 2012, despite being the second busiest refugee office in the country. Home Affairs then closed it Foreshore office to all new applicants and to all those renewing permits who had originally applied for these at offices other than Cape Town.
With the support of the LRC, asylum seekers took Home Affairs to court. The case went on for five years, but in September 2017 the SCA ruled that Home Affairs must “reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in or around the Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality, by Friday 31 March 2018.” The case concluded when the Constitutional Court refused to hear an appeal by Home Affairs. This means the SCA ruling is final.
The LRC wrote to Home Affairs on 11 January requesting to see a report regarding the implementation process as stipulated by the court.
Home Affairs did acknowledge receipt of the request and responded to the LRC: “We shall be in a position to furnish your office with an elaborative and extensive report as ordered by the court, at the end of February 2018.”
To date the department has failed to send any report on the progress towards reopening.
A judge in another case ordered Home Affairs to renew or extend asylum seeker permits at its Cape Town centre, irrespective of where the applicants first applied for asylum in the city. This is according to Sherylle Dass, Cape Town Regional Director for the LRC. This does not only apply to people mentioned in the case but to all asylum seekers living in the Western Cape. Home Affairs initially appealed this decision but then withdrew that appeal.
“The department had been penalising refugees by issuing them with administrative fines for not renewing their asylum seeker permits, as if they are the ones who had failed to comply with the Refugees Act. Yet it is [Home Affairs] who was refusing to renew permits of asylum seekers who applied for asylum from other Refugee Centres outside of Cape Town,” said Dass.
Refugees, such as Mbaya Mukendi from the DRC, say they are anxiously waiting for Home Affairs to open the office as ordered by the court.
“Since 2015, when they stopped renewing my document, I have lost many opportunities. My bank account closed; I am out of work; I am living on piece jobs. I am a qualified and experienced tailor but because of the state of my document nobody wants to hire or partner in business with me,” said Mukendi.
He first applied for asylum in Pretoria in 2008. He renewed his documents at the foreshore offices until 2011, after which he was told he has to renew in Pretoria. He travelled to Pretoria, where he was also turned away. An official wrote on his document: “Go back and renew in Cape Town.” In 2016, he was arrested in Pretoria and had to pay a R1,000 ‘admission of guilt’ fine for not renewing his document on time.
GroundUp also spoke to a 28-year-old woman, a refugee from DRC. She has three children in Cape Town. The children’s school is demanding valid papers.
She originally applied for asylum in Musina in 2012. She was told by officials she would be able to renew her documents in Cape Town. The last time she was allowed to renew at the Foreshore offices was in 2014. She was told to go back to Musina, but she doesn’t have the money to travel there.
In December, she narrowly escaped arrest when immigration officers raided the block of flats where she lives in Parow. “Since that time I am living in fear. It’s not nice to stay with invalid document. I can’t study. I can’t work. Because I am illegal, I need to be careful of my movements,” she said.