Archive from April, 2018

Home affairs plays open cards with VFS contract details

3.4.2018 – The Citizen
The department said when visa applications were internally, there was gross incompetence that resulted in adjudication delays.
The department of home affairs has come clean on information regarding the service-level agreement contained in the contract it has signed with visa application service provider VFS.
Among a raft of allegations were that Rajesh Gupta and Duduzane Zuma are shareholders in the company, and that VFS provided outsourced services that should be performed by departmental employees.
“The department of home affairs entered into a contract with VFS Global on 27 October 2010 for management of visa and permit applications intake at the South African Missions abroad. On 2 December 2013, the department entered into a similar contract with VFS for management of visa and permit applications intake in South Africa. The contract with VFS will expire on 31 December 2018,” said departmental spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete.
Tshwete told The Citizen in an emailed response that VFS was not entitled to any payments in terms of the contract and thus no monies were paid to the service provider since 2010.
“The service is rendered at no cost to the department. The appointed company invested in the project by securing all visa centres at their own expense. The technology has been deployed without home affairs being liable to its costs. The staff members of the company are also at the company’s expense.
“The company charges clients management fee and also what is due to the state. Money to the state is collected by the company electronically and paid to the national revenue account. The department receives regular reconciliation of received revenue. What companies charge to clients has been agreed between the department and VFS,” Tshwete said.
The department is satisfied that since the service provider was brought on board, “there has been a marked improvement on the delivery of performance targets”.
The department believes that in the last quarter of 2017/2018 financial year, “96% of permanent residence applications were adjudicated within eight months for applications collected within the country, 97.5% of business and general work visas were adjudicated within eight weeks”.
Speaking to The Citizen earlier today, director-general Mkuseli Apleni denied that the department had the capacity to provide the outsourced services, arguing if the department was burdened with the responsibility of receiving visa applications, that would likely affect the adjudication period timelines.
“The service that VFS provides is the management of application intake and handing over outcomes of visas on behalf of the department. This is an international practice in the world that aims to bring about efficiency in the visa application process.
“Countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ivory Coast and Ghana use similar services, but not necessarily the same service provider. Home affairs does not have adequate funding to capacitate front offices with staff, offices as well as equipment in order to provide effective and efficient services to the clients, hence this business partnership with VFS,” Tshwete explained.
Tshwete said this function was previously performed by regional offices with less capacity, which resulted in “incomplete applications, delayed capturing of applications, delayed capturing of outcomes and lack of uniformity of applications management throughout the offices”.
“The offshore contract was a closed bid process and the award was presented and approved by the Bid Adjudication Committee on 11 March 2010. The Chairperson of the Bid Adjudication Committee was the then Chief Financial Officer and current Director-General Mr. Mkuseli Apleni.
“The local service contract was an open bid process and the award was presented and approved by the Bid Adjudication Committee on 07 May 2013. The Chairperson of the Bid Adjudication Committee was the then Chief Financial Officer, Ms. Rudzani Rasikhinya,” Tshwete wrote.
On the contentious question of who really owns the company, the department pointed out “VFS Global is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Kuoni Group, headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, whose principal owner is EQT, a leading global investment firm, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden”.

Sisulu welcomes Australia’s retraction of visas for farmers comment

2018-04-02 – News24
Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Lindiwe Sisulu has welcomed the retraction of a statement made by an Australian minister last month about granting visas to white South African farmers.
Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton controversially said white South African farmers “deserve special attention” and he would prioritise visas.
“I think these people deserve special attention and we’re certainly applying that special attention now,” he said.
Dutton’s comments caused a diplomatic spat between the two countries which saw Sisulu issuing a diplomatic demarche – or course of action – to the Australian High Commissioner in South Africa, Adam McCarthy, to demand a retraction of the comments by Dutton.
Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has since retracted the comments made by Dutton.
In a statement, Sisulu said South Africa’s diplomatic channels remained open to those who wished to seek clarity on South Africa’s policy positions.
“We welcome the assurance by the Australian government as reported in the media that the comments made by their home affairs minister are not in line with Australian immigration policy,” Sisulu said.
“We also welcome Australia’s condemnation of the unfortunate comments by South African and other international organisations and leaders.”
“We must emphasise, as we have stated before, that no one is being persecuted in South Africa, including white farmers. We call upon all non-governmental organisations to desist from spreading untruths and misleading information,” she said.

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

2018-04-02 – The South African
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.

Burundian refugees in Tanzania to return home

01 April 2018 – Reliefweb
In Summary
– UNHCR said that more than 20,000 refugees have registered to return to Burundi in the programme that targets at least 72,000 Burundians.
– By March 22, at least 20,739 Burundian refugees from Tanzania were repatriated.
– Tanzania currently hosts more than three million refugees and asylum seekers, out of which 274,455 are Burundians.
Tanzania, Burundi and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have agreed to start voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Tanzania on April 5.
UNHCR said that more than 20,000 refugees have registered to return to Burundi in the programme that targets at least 72,000 Burundians.
Burundi’s Home Affairs Assistant Minister Therence Ntahiraja told The EastAfrican that the government was ready to accommodate the returnees.
“The country is ready to welcome all the refugees who wish to return. We have already expressed our position on this. The doors are open to all Burundians who wish to return,” he said.
In a joint statement after the 20th meeting of the Tripartite Commission for the Voluntary Repatriation of Burundian Refugees in Tanzania, a plan of action was developed, targeting to move two batches of 1,000 refugees each per week between April 5 and December 31.
The tripartite report was adopted last Wednesday in the Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura.
According to UNHCR, by March 22, at least 20,739 Burundian refugees from Tanzania were repatriated.
“While some refugees may opt to return now, others may still have well founded reasons for not seeking to return at the present time and will continue to be in need of international protection,” reads the statement.
The tripartite commission noted that the repatriation exercise, which commenced on September 7 last year, had been successful and even exceeded the target.
Tanzania currently hosts more than three million refugees and asylum seekers, out of which 274,455 are Burundians.
In September last year, more than 30 Burundian refugees were allegedly killed by Congolese security forces who opened fire on a crowd of protesting refugees in the South Kivu.
Reports indicated that more than 100 Burundian refugees were injured in the same incident. Last year, according to the UNHCR, Kamanyola in South Kivu hosted 2005 refugees and asylum seekers from Burundi.
In early March, at least 2,500 Burundian refugees living in South Kivu in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo crossed the border into Rwanda, citing lack of food and security in their different locations.

Steve Smith, David Warner to be given fast-track at Home Affairs to become South Africans

Citizen 1 April 2018

Home Affairs Minister Gigaba believes the fallen Australian heroes have all the character traits this country needs.
Following the recent scandal around ball tampering involving the disgraced former captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner of Australia, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba announced on Sunday that both batsmen had applied to become South Africans and he would fast-track their applications personally.
The minister said that, given his history with characters like the Guptas, assisting the controversial sportsmen in this way was only logical and consistent with his record as a public official.
“These gentleman are awesomely talented and, since Australia doesn’t want them to play for them any more, they would be a great asset to local cricket here in South Africa, especially since Hashim Amla hasn’t made a century for quite some time. It would be great to see Warner opening the batting for South Africa at the upcoming World Cup,” he said, reading from a Sahara Computers laptop that promptly stopped working.
Shortly after showing the press gathered at a media briefing in Pretoria his unbelievably high Candy Crush score, he continued reading off his iPad.
“It’s high time that South Africa stops exporting all our players to all these other countries and helping them to win World Cups. Now is the time to break the trend and involve people who know how to win, no matter what.
“Smith and Warner have higher-grade understanding of what it takes to conquer the opposition – for example, here in South Africa we don’t know what roughness of sandpaper to buy at Builders Warehouse in order to ensure optimal performance. This is the kind of know-how that only these Australians will be able to teach us.”
“Furthermore, Warner and Smith owe it to South Africa to make amends. This is the best thing I can imagine for all concerned, given the circumstances.”
When contacted for comment, both Warner and Smith expressed dismay at the prospect that they might become Proteas, but were grateful for the opportunity to keep experimenting in real-world situations with the atmospheric physics of Kookaburras.
April Fool’s! Obviously.

ANC cuts backdoor deal with the Oppenheimers

01 April 2018 – Business Day

In court, Nicky Oppenheimer accused the Guptas of using their Denel connections to hijack the deal so they could take it over.
The Oppenheimers held secret talks with ANC headquarters over an application to the national government by one of the family’s businesses to be allowed to operate its own private international terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.
The Sunday Times can reveal the ANC wrote to Nicky Oppenheimer to inform him his company Fireblade Aviation had “met the necessary requirements” and would be granted permission for the terminal. Two months later, the project was given the green light by the Department of Home Affairs.
The luxury terminal, which offers customs and immigration services to passengers travelling on private jets, has been mired in controversy and has seen Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba take a legal pounding after he approved the project and then backtracked.
It has also reportedly become the subject of a tussle between two of South Africa’s most powerful families, the Oppenheimers and the Guptas. In court, Nicky Oppenheimer accused the Guptas of using their Denel connections to hijack the deal so they could take it over. The Guptas denied this.
Now new information obtained by the Sunday Times this week shows that the approval for the Oppenheimers to run their own VVIP terminal came from the ANC before the government gave the go-ahead.

Migration agents warn against visa category overhaul

Migration agents warn against visa category overhaul
31 March 2018 – SBS
The government’s plans to cut down the categories will lead to more application knock-backs, one agent has told SBS News.
Migration agents have warned against the Turnbull government’s plans for a major visa overhaul to drastically reduce the number of categories on offer, saying it would impact the success rate for applicants.
The Coalition is waiting on advice from the Department of Home Affairs on how to cut the current 99 visa categories down to 10 in what would be the single biggest immigration change in more than two decades.
“It’s going to be very difficult to handle all of the applications, the type of applications that 99 visa categories handle, and narrow them down to ten visa subclasses,” Canberra migration agent Jason Browne told SBS News.
Mr Browne believes that with fewer categories applicants will be more likely to go it alone with their paperwork and it will undoubtedly result in more visa rejections.
“Immigration law is not easy. Individuals and businesses doing their own visa applications … there is going to be an increase in refusals and appeals,” he said.
Simplifying the system
The Home Affairs Department’s rationale for the move is to curb rising net overseas migration and reduce the cost of the “ill-suited” visa system which it has labelled “an artefact of a bygone era”.
On its website, it argues that a more flexible system would help the government to ‘attract new and better migrants where they arise’.
By comparison, the United States has an even more complication system with some 185 different types of visas available.
According to department figures, the volume of visa and citizenship applications is forecast to increase by around 50 per cent within the next 10 years, to around 13 million applications annually.
Param Jaswal, managing director at the Imperial College of Australia, has been navigating the visa system for more than 20 years to enable foreign students to study in Australia.
“It’s still very complicated for an individual to go through the number of subclasses on the Immigration Department website and just to identify which subclass will suit their particular requirement … it becomes very complex,” he told SBS News.
Further changes ahead
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced the government’s intention to shake up the visa categories last year.
The government then accepted public submissions over a seven-week period, receiving a total of 255.
A summary of the public consultation process suggests there is strong support for a visa system that is “easy to navigate”.
Even so, the majority of those who put in submissions to the government-backed “the retention of some kind of pathway from temporary to permanent residence”.
It follows a number of changes in recent years that have reduced the opportunities for migrants to gain permanent residency in Australia including reforms to the popular 457 skilled visa program.
Also under consideration is a new provisional visa system that would not afford applicants the same access to welfare payments and services that permanent residents are currently entitled to.
“This is a huge change,” Anna Boucher, senior lecturer in public policy and political science at the University of Sydney, told SBS News.
“It could see a wholesale change in what visa categories we have and secondly a fundamental shift from Australia as a country of permanent settlement to one where temporary migration is more and more the status quo.”
While Labor supports the idea of simplifying the visa system in principle, shadow immigration minister Shayne Neumann said closing off pathways to permanent residency could create an “underclass” of migrants in Australia.
“The government looks like it’s got an agenda here,” he told SBS News.
”Who can argue against visa simplification? But if it’s a method by which the government tries to create an underclass in the country, that’s not a good thing”.