Archive from March, 2018

Gigaba gears up to tackle corruption as he rejoins home affairs

2.3.2018 – The Citizen
The minister says he wants to reposition the department and help it to facilitate economic development inSA through its immigration policy.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Friday said reviewing the current systems for issuing South African documents to foreign nationals was one of his top priorities when he rejoined the department, bearing in mind the “prominent cases” where procedures were said to have been flouted.
“We need to ask questions … a number of cases have come up relating to how people access South African documentation. I think we need review the robustness of our systems in that regard.
“Some of these cases are prominent cases where people have obtained South African documentation, they are found at a later stage to be involved in all sorts of corrupt and other nefarious activities,” Gigaba said.
He was addressing senior home affairs management staff in Pretoria as he begins another tenure in his old portfolio after a brief stint as finance minister.
“The question arises … how robust are our systems to be able to deal with that, to preempt it, to combat it, to minimise it? Obviously there is no way that we, sitting here, can know that in the future a person may be engaged in crime or corruption. Is there anything we need to do in terms of the systems we are operating, to improve their robustness, their vigilance, to assist us minimize future problems?”
In March last year, then president Jacob Zuma fired minister Pravin Gordhan and finance deputy minister Mcebisi Jonas. Zuma moved Gigaba from home affairs, to replace Gordhan.
This week, President Cyril Ramaphosa named his first Cabinet and moved Gigaba back to lead the department of home affairs.
Parliament has previously raised questions on how members of the politically connected Gupta family became naturalised South African citizens.
On Friday, Gigaba said he wanted to reposition the department of home affairs and help it to facilitate economic development in the country through its immigration policy.
“One of the urgent things we need to finalise is the repositioning of the department. Much as we have got Cabinet approval to locate it as part of the security cluster, we had also decided that we would want to reposition the department to play a role in facilitating economic development in the country.
“That means supporting our ports of entry, supporting tourism, ensuring that we can play a role in empowering citizens with the documents that will enable them to play an economic role.”
The minister was flanked by his deputy Fatima Chohan, and home affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni.

Immigration regulations are closing SA for business

2 March 2018 – 702 radio
Immigration attorney and founder of Eisenberg & Associates, Gary Eisenberg, says when the department of Home Affairs introduced amendments of the immigration laws in May 2014, the light went out.
For a foreign spouse to apply for temporary residence visa, he/she is required to go back home and apply from there. Eisenberg says it is a violation of fundamental law and the immigration regulations are non-compliant with the Constitution.
If we talk about identity theft; if you talk about duplication of ID documents and fraud, the Department of Home Affairs should look carefully at its system. They often point a finger at foreigners and corrupt syndicates perpetrating fraud on the department.
— Gary Eisenberg, Immigration Attorney and Founder of Eisenberg & Associates
Problem over here is the departments own officials and its own systems are corrupt; that being the problem all along since this democracy in 1994.
— Gary Eisenberg, Immigration Attorney and Founder of Eisenberg & Associates
Speaking to Bongani Bingwa, Eisenberg said the Department of Home Affairs allows people who have permanent citizenship to apply for citizenship after 10 years of obtaining the right to citizenship. He says this is indirect conflict with the clear wording of the Citizenship Act.
The message is South Africa is closed for business, the message is its fortress South Africa in direct contradiction to what Madiba stood for.
— Gary Eisenberg, Immigration Attorney and Founder of Eisenberg & Associates
However, the departments director general Mkuseli Apleni says immigration must be managed effectively for the benefit for the country.
Which country in the world is opening up and getting everything? Why do we have boarders. We allow people who must come to country who will add value.
— Mkuseli Apleni, Home affairs DG
We approve about 90% of people who are critical skills within four weeks of their application.
— Mkuseli Apleni, Home affairs DG
Apleni says the department is not against South Africans marrying foreigners. He says they are fighting marriages of convenience where people sell their citizenship for people to come to the country.
If they don’t comply with the regulations what must we do? We can’t sell our country to the highest bidder.
— Mkuseli Apleni, Home affairs DG

Rumours about green ID books set straight

More refreshing news regarding identification is that 14 bank branches have come on board to help

Out with the old, in with the new: Green bar- coded ID’s will not be invalid as of next month and you can now visit participating banks to get the new Smart Cart ID.
Rumours that the green bar-coded identification document (ID) books will be discontinued next month have surfaced again on social media.
The rumours have left many in a panic to get to their nearest Home Affairs office to apply for the new smart card ID. Locals will welcome the news that the rumours were a hoax and this was verified by Home Affairs Director General Mkuseli Apleni.
The rumour seems to be the reason behind the public swarming the Estcourt Home Affairs office. The false claims first started circulating late last year.
More refreshing news regarding identification is that 14 bank branches have come on board to help extend coverage of the remaining 31 million South Africans who still need to attain a smart ID card.
When the smart ID cards were being rolled out in July 2013, Home Affairs data showed that 38 million people were in possession of the green-bar coded ID books.
Between 2013 and 2017, they were able to issue seven million smart cards. Absa, FNB, Nedbank and Standard Bank, any of these participating banks can now assist locals in receiving their smart ID cards.

Somaliland ticks boxes of statehood

Democracy at work: The Republic of Somaliland fits the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States definition that a state should have a permanent population, defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Picture: TRISTEN TAYLOR
The immigration official at the border between Ethiopia and the Republic of Somaliland says that, in his seven years of working at the small and dusty border post, he has never seen a South African passport before.
During the day, the air in Somaliland’s capital city Hargeisa is still and listless in the heat. There is not a great deal to do except nap to the lullaby of an electric fan, listen to the mu’addhin calling out to the faithful, or chew khat. Alcohol is banned, so there is no cold beer to help the day drift on by.
During the night, a cool breeze and sugary milky coffee lubricate conversations with Somalis, who often have American or British accents. The diaspora is returning home and investing heavily in the country.
The usual topic of coffee shop conversations is the national elections: Somaliland went to the polls on November 13. After that conversation, there tends to be a bombardment of questions about President Jacob Zuma’s corruption.
I inevitably end up apologising for SA’s xenophobia, like I have had to do in every country on my 1200cc motorcycle ride up Africa.
Three parties contested the election: Kulmiye, Wadani and For Justice and Development. To reduce the potential for conflict, the parties held carnival-like marches on alternating days. The general feeling is that the politicians will accept the election results.
Street campaigning in Hargeisa is a million miles away from Kenyan electioneering — where I got tear-gassed twice — or SA’s omnipresent threat of political violence.
Somaliland is not exactly a hot spot for tourists: I did not see any. Perhaps the lack of tourism is due to the false impression that al-Shabaab rules the streets and there is no difference between Hargeisa and lawless Mogadishu in Somalia. If you are foolish enough to come to this part of the world, and move through the streets in anything but a tank, says the conventional wisdom, you’ll be kidnapped by zealots of a perverse distortion of Islam. On the plus side, the YouTube video of your rolling head should get a few clicks.
But Somaliland is the safest and friendliest country I have ever been in. My Johannesburg mentality keeps freaking out with the locals: why are you talking to me? What do you want? Are you trying to set me up for some scam by inviting me over for a cappuccino?
Instead of being mugged, stabbed, conned or generally intimidated, I’m in danger of tooth decay from sweet spiced tea. And then there is that disquieting feeling of a returning faith in humanity. Maybe tourists don’t come to Somaliland because it is not an internationally recognised state. The UN, for example, sees Somaliland as a part of Somalia and not as an independent country. This is where matters start to get complicated. Is Somaliland a state? International recognition can’t be the determinate of statehood. Even if we don’t declare a camel to be a camel, it is still a camel. Camels are what they are. Generally, cantankerous animals that often run unexpectedly out of the bush and onto the road.
Thus we are left with the pressing question what a state is. For if Somaliland is one, then SA’s Department of International Relations and Co-operation has some explaining to do.
There are two main definitions of a state. The first definition comes from article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States (1933), which declares that a state should have a permanent population, defined territory, a government and the capacity to enter into relations with other states. Check on all four counts. Borders, budgets, rule of law, people, embassies, traffic police — Somaliland has them all, along with 9GB of prepaid mobile data for R75.
In 1918, the noted German sociologist Max Weber defined the state as “a human community that [successfully] claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a given territory”.
Check again. No road transport was allowed on voting day. The borders were closed. Police manned the voting booths. Social media was shut down. The human community of Somaliland has that monopoly on legitimate violence, just like the South African state does.
If it runs, chews, smells, looks and bites like a camel, then it is a camel.
So why hasn’t SA recognised the conservative but democratic Republic of Somaliland? Maybe the government is petrified that if it recognises the divorce of Somalia and Somaliland, it would have to give in to the powerful Cape Party and allow the Western Cape to become the world’s first Hipster Republic.
The more likely explanation is that the ANC as a liberation party is dead. Buried deep under tons of overpriced Gupta concrete.
Reflecting the personal inclinations of Number One, the ANC as a governing party has a foreign affairs platform that supports anything but democracy.
Omar al-Bashir, Robert Mugabe, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Joseph Kabila, those are our guys.
As the ANC’s commitment to supporting the development of democracies outside of SA has waned, we should not be surprised that its commitment to democracy inside SA is withering. In 2015, our friends in the People’s Republic of China abducted five booksellers in Hong Kong.
We didn’t say anything then, did we? And now look at what the President’s Keepers are trying to do.

How migrant entrepreneurs play a role in easing lives of SA’s poorest

There is a marked contrast between what 60% of South Africans believe about migrant entrepreneurs from Somalia, Nigeria and Senegal who live in Cape Town and actual findings confirmed by research. A survey in 2010 found that the majority of South Africans believed that one of the reasons for the xenophobic violence in 2008 was that migrants were taking jobs from South Africans, that they were engaging in illegal and other nefarious business practices and driving local small businesses to the wall.
However, a study of migrant entrepreneurs from these countries — and confirmed in the Southern African Migration Programme survey conducted in Johannesburg and Cape Town — found that, contrary to these beliefs, migrant entrepreneurs create jobs for other migrants and South Africans, slightly favouring the employment of South Africans.
Other findings were that migrant entrepreneurs also make other contributions to SA’s economy.
All evidence points to the fact that migrant businesses source their goods in the formal economy and contribute to the tax base by paying value-added tax. They have also introduced a diverse range of products, business activities and opportunities and brought scarce manufacturing skills into the township economy.
Key beneficiaries are poorer consumers who can access cheap goods, often in appropriate quantities and at convenient times of day and locations. The migrant entrepreneurs’ competitive edge stems from careful attention to product sourcing and servicing customer needs — their business model is based on low mark-ups and high turnover, making a greater variety of goods available in flexible quantities, a culture of thrift and the long hours they are prepared to work.
Under any other circumstances, they would probably be praised as shining examples of micro-entrepreneurship. But the government and many citizens view their activities as undesirable solely because of their national origins and the ease with which they can be scapegoated as the cause of unrelated political and economic issues.
Harassment, extortion and the bribery of officials are among the daily costs of doing business for migrants in SA. Many entrepreneurs, especially in informal settlements and townships, face constant threats to their security and minimal protection from the police — in addition to the constraints they face simply because they operate informally.
In SA, the informal economy has at best been ignored and at worst actively discouraged. The antimigrant sentiment is driving a process of severe regulation that will further endanger the livelihoods of migrant entrepreneurs.
In the past decade, there has been a retrogression in the policy environment relating to migrant entrepreneurs, asylum seekers and refugees. SA’s migration and refugee policy has shifted away from the former integrationist approach to one of containment and repulsion.
This is most evident in the 2016 Refugees Amendment Act, the recent green paper on International Migration in SA and the current construction of what the Department of Home Affairs has termed “a processing centre” near Messina, Limpopo. Only 10% of international migrants who have applied for asylum or refugee status have been granted this status. The government believes only 10% of the applicants are asylum or refugee status seekers — the rest are economic migrants. This remains their argument despite the consensus among experts and researchers that the percentage of actual refugees and asylum seekers is considerably higher than 10% and that migrants have a positive effect on national economies.
According to the 2015 white paper, there were 78,339 active asylum-seeker permits. Public education initiatives to educate South African citizens on issues of xenophobia have not had any measurable effect, due largely to legislation, policy and attitudes in the government becoming increasingly unwelcoming of migrants and the seemingly intractable xenophobic attitude of about 60% of South Africans.
Legal challenges to government departments, municipalities and metros have had far more success because of the tenets of the Constitution and the inclusive and comprehensive rights it assures to any persons residing in SA — both citizen and noncitizen alike.
One of the greatest challenges for migrants in SA is maintaining their self-reliance and assuring their right to work within the informal sector. Social protection of vulnerable migrant communities in SA needs to focus on protecting migrant-owned small, medium and micro-enterprises in the informal sector. These businesses are the migrants’ main source of income security and if their livelihoods are to be sustainably protected and community resilience maintained, their rights in this area are vital.
It is possible the legal challenges could set an important precedent in favour of these communities and form a key part of a sustainable solution to the problem of ensuring their social, legal and economic protection.
The government’s argument is that its change of approach has been driven by the overwhelming number of international migrants home affairs has had to process. The deleterious effects this influx can have on the national economy and SA’s social cohesion are simply not borne out by the facts.
In contrast, the facts lead to an understanding that the services provided by migrant entrepreneurs to poorer households in the townships (credit, smaller product quantities and a greater variety of goods) play a key role in food security strategies for these households.
Rather than the negative effect the government argues international migrants have, we see that on aggregate their businesses benefit the most vulnerable in SA and the economy. Do we need to ask who else would provide these services, if not migrants?
The migrant entrepreneurs are also among the most dedicated and resourceful entrepreneurs in SA’s informal economy. There needs to be an acceptance by the government and the public that neither the informal economy nor the migrants will go away.
Both are indispensable because they fulfil vital needs and services to the poorest of the poor. They are quite simply filling a gap in the market, and their businesses should be, at the least, left alone and, at the most, supported by the government and citizens.

Immigration hurdles block Ramaphosa’s vision to lure capital

Cyril Ramaphosa’s first speech as the new president of the ANC left many South Africans hopeful and enthusiastic about the country’s future.
Virtually all interested parties in the immigration industry are urging him to engage with our sector urgently to discover the hurdles blocking his ambition to make SA attractive for foreign investment.
While existing legislation may provide a platform for reasonable immigration laws, the law is not applied in practice. SA loses substantial amounts of money annually due to lawsuits challenging incorrect Department of Home Affairs visa application rejections. Even worse, the country loses incalculable benefits due to the large number of would-be investors who are turned away over visa hurdles.
Experienced businesspeople, attracted by the promise of operating in SA, regularly lose heart and take their investments elsewhere due to failed business visa applications; they take with them their foreign investment, skills and job creation potential.
Applicants who could transfer scarce and valuable skills to SA’s citizens routinely fail to secure the promised scarce-skills visas due to wrongful refusals. Foreign-born business owners applying for visa renewals are frequently turned down for no clear reason, placing the future of their families, businesses and employees in jeopardy. Appeals against these rulings can take years, at huge financial and emotional cost to the applicants and their families, and at a significant cost to the state.
Inconsistent interpretation of the Immigration Act implemented in May 2014, with home affairs directives imposed without due consideration of their impact, are the biggest stumbling blocks in the way of the foreign direct investment and global skills transfer the country so desperately needs.
SA is no longer the only “gateway to Africa”, and foreign businesses seeking to gain a foothold on the continent have multiple investment options.
I have experienced many instances where would-be investors have opted not to appeal and have simply taken their money elsewhere. In one recent case a foreign businessman planning to invest R20m in a guesthouse in Cape Town was denied because the Department of Trade and Industry would not support his application, a prerequisite to a business visa application, deeming the sector “overpopulated”.
Potential investors are turned away annually in their numbers, and the true extent of this lost revenue will never be known because so many more hear of the challenges of entering SA to do business and move on to greener pastures without even applying.
For those who are truly determined to make SA their home the immigration challenges may serve as an incentive to enter the country illegally or to apply for the incorrect visas. And for those who are already living and working in the country, these challenges and wrongful rejections cause untold heartache and disruption.
Services for South African citizens in the supply of identity and passport documents have improved significantly over the past few years, but the service from the Department of Home Affairs for foreigners remains impaired. Litigation has consequently resulted in judgments against the department, which must realise that the Constitution has meaning and that the rule of law will prevail if the ordinary administrative process fails.
Immigration processes and the inconsistent interpretation of the law by home affairs officials are in effect slamming the door in the face of would-be foreign investors.
The immigration industry has taken due notice of Ramaphosa’s contributions to the country and his commitment to fighting corruption and putting SA back on the market as one of the top destinations for foreign investment, tertiary study and the entry of skilled workers. Only through productive and dignified engagement will litigation be avoided. Only through proper partnerships with all interested parties and the upskilling of home affairs officials, especially regarding the law, will foreigners and South Africans be better served — without fear, favour or conflict.
We urge Ramaphosa, as the new president of the ANC, to engage with interested parties to discover the real barriers in the way of much-needed foreign investment and skills streaming into the country to catalyse economic growth and job creation.

Lawyers for DRC family go to court over right to SA citizenship

A couple originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have found themselves stateless after renouncing their citizenship in order to be naturalised as South Africans.
While one of their children has been granted South African citizenship‚ the youngest child, who was born in 2017, failed to gain the same status and may not be able to access services offered by public facilities in SA.
A law firm has brought an application in the High Court in Cape Town that seeks clarity on how long a permanent resident must reside in SA before he or she is eligible for citizenship.
The question came into the spotlight last week when the public protector ordered the Department of Home Affairs to review the 10-year waiting period for permanent residents to apply for naturalisation and ensure it aligned with the five-year period in the Citizenship Act.
The public protector dealt with complaints from foreign nationals who were told they needed to be permanent residents of SA for 10 years to qualify for naturalisation.
De Saude Attorneys is acting for the Mulowayi family‚ which has been in the country since the early 2000s.
Florette Mulowayi has lived and worked in SA since 2002‚ when she left her home country as a refugee. Her husband‚ Nsongoni‚ joined her in 2004.
Since they have been in SA‚ the couple have had three children all born here‚ one of whom died.
The family was left stateless after being denied South African citizenship‚ despite meeting all the requirements.
Florette and Nsongoni were granted permanent resident permits in 2011 and waited five years before applying for citizenship. Even after renouncing their DRC citizenship‚ their applications for naturalisation were denied.
While two of their eldest children were granted South African citizenship and received their South African birth certificates‚ their youngest child, born in March 2017, was not recognised as a citizen of SA.
“This has created a bizarre situation where two parents are stateless but South African permanent residents, one minor is a South African citizen, and another minor son is stateless and without any status in SA at all‚” said Stefanie de Saude-Darbandi‚ director of De Saude Attorneys.
She said the couple realised that‚ as an undocumented minor‚ their youngest son was unable to turn to local hospitals or clinics should he fall ill. She said even basic procedures such as applying for schooling or booking a flight is impossible.
De Saude-Darbandi said the family‚ from Kensington in Johannesburg‚ brought an application to seek clarity on the waiting period for foreign nationals to seek naturalisation.
She said the family also sought clarification on whether the department was under the obligation to recognise the couple’s 11-month-old son as a South African citizen by birth.
“The outcome of this case‚ which was scheduled to be heard in the … high court on November 23 but was postponed … will determine whether the Mulowayis’ son has claim to citizenship and the Constitutional rights such citizenship would afford him.”
The case has been set down for March.