Archive from March, 2019

Home Affairs queues get ugly

Aside from the usual inconvenience of a repeatedly crashing or offline system the continuing woes and long queues at Pietermaritzburg Home Affairs office were aggravated by last week’s load shedding.
This was because the back-up generator — which broke down in January — had not been fixed.
However, manager Xolani Maphumulo said a team of technicians arrived on Friday to repair it and it was up and running by that afternoon.
Maphumulo attributed the delay in fixing the generator to the workload of the service provider, stating that only one service provider was available to all Home Affairs branches across the country.
“The technicians were only able to attend to our offices today [Monday], they have been busy throughout the country,” he said on Friday.
He said normally due to the limited uninterrupted power supply the office receives from Msunduzi Municipality during load shedding — which helps power the computers — they tried to work through the planned outages.
But with the generator also out of order the system was extra slow.
Maphumulo said now that the technical problems with the generator have been fixed he did not foresee further disruptions to services this week.
One frustrated resident who had stood in queues repeatedly from 7 am last Wednesday, said she managed to get her application done on Friday.
She said on Wednesday, while the doors were opened at 8 am, only people requiring marriage and birth certificates were allowed in.
“This went on for most of the morning and they kept saying that their systems were offline. The security guard said the biometrics system had crashed, and that IT was working on it. I stood there the whole of Wednesday and nothing happened,” she said.
She said when she went back again on Thursday nothing happened because of load shedding.
The resident went back again on Friday and eventually managed to get in and process her passport application.
“While I was standing in the queue it got so ugly and people were very angry. The guards didn’t have control over the crowd.”
She said at that stage, whoever pushed the hardest managed to get in through the door.
While she was inside, the resident said she and other patrons were locked inside because the crowd outside was banging on the glass doors demanding to be let in.
“It was the most traumatic experience of my life and I never want to go through that again,” she said.
More than 100 people, including the elderly, pupils and women carrying newborns, complained on Friday that they had been waiting since 3 am that day to be helped.
The outraged residents from Pietermaritzburg and the outskirts, who were desperately trying to get official documents had hoped that after spending over 10 hours in the queue they would be seen to, but by 2 pm they had not been helped.
Several said they were tired of leaving their homes before dawn to wait outside the Home Affairs office, only to be turned away in the afternoon without having been served and forced to return day after day.
Some complained that the employees at the office should extend their working hours to compensate for the backlog created by load shedding.
A woman from Mountain Rise, who asked to remain unnamed, said she was applying for a Smart ID card for her son who is in matric.
“I got here at 5.30 am. Besides the load shedding, they are slow and inefficient.
“The queue is always long and its just pointless to wait but where else can we go? It’s the same everywhere,” she said.
She said it was frustrating to stand in the queue the whole day only to be turned away.
“If my son doesn’t have his ID, he will not be able to write his final exams. Nobody has even come out to inform us that they had load shedding,” she said.
Another parent, who also asked not to be named, suggested that Home Affairs should revive its mobile service units for schools.
“We can’t keep taking leave from work for nothing. The last time I was here I got as far as the door only to have the security guard close the door in my face.”
Gillian David said she had been standing in the queue from 5 am on Friday. “I left here at 12 pm when they had load shedding and went to New Hanover. There I was told that their systems have been offline from Tuesday.”
David said she also required a Smart ID card and passport for her son.
“This is a government department servicing many people daily. They should have a functional generator and back-up for load shedding. It’s really not fair.”
Ntombenhle Buthelezi (54), from Swapo informal settlement near Copesville, said although the power was restored around 12 pm, the queue was still moving at a snail’s pace. “You are lucky if you get in.
“Every two hours, only 10 people move, at times you are lucky if the 10 even move.”

African migration: Five things we’ve learnt

More than one in three Africans have considered emigrating, researchers for Afrobarometer say.
Their continent-wide survey also found that young and educated people were more likely than others to want to leave their home country.
For those who do leave, it is not to Europe or North America that most go to, but another African country.
Here are five key things we have learnt from the report.
Why do people want to leave?
“Looking for work” and “escaping poverty and economic hardship” were the biggest factors for wanting to emigrate in almost all of the 34 countries surveyed, accounting for 44% and 29% respectively.
Having family and loved ones abroad could influence that decision too.
Afrobarometer found that one in five depend at least “a little bit” on cash payments sent to them from another country. A quarter of those surveyed say someone in their family has lived in another country during the past three years.
Where do they want to go?
The most popular destinations are not in Europe or North America but within Africa.
People who say they are considering emigrating mostly want to stay within their region (29%) or go elsewhere in Africa (7%).
Image copyright .
But researchers found some interesting differences.
People in southern African indicate the strongest preference for staying in the region (58%) while this feeling was weakest in North Africa (8%).
For those saying they want to leave the continent, Europe (27%) and North America (22%) were the next biggest destinations.
Who is most likely to leave?
Around half of all young adults and highly educated citizens say they have considered leaving their country at least “a little bit”.
Young adults are most likely to consider emigrating
Source: Afrobarometer profile of African migration, 2019
Most educated are most likely to consider emigrating
Source: Afrobarometer profile of African migration, 2019
“Thoughts of moving abroad are about equally common among the relatively well-off and the poor”, according to Afrobarometer’s report.
More men (40%) than women (33%) say they are considering emigrating, and researchers found the desire to leave is stronger among people living in town and cities (44%) than rural areas (32%).
Which countries are people wanting to leave most?
One of the survey’s most striking findings is that 37% – more than one in three Africans – have considered moving abroad. Just under half of those say this is something they have thought about “a lot”.
When it comes to actually moving, 7% of people in Zimbabwe and Lesotho say they are currently making preparations to go, compared to an African average of 3%.
Image copyright Getty Images
Countries where more than half of people say they considering leaving at least “a little bit” are Cape Verde (57%), Sierra Leone (57%), The Gambia (56%), Togo (54%), and São Tomé and Príncipe (54%).
But this does not paint the full picture. South Sudan, which does not feature in the Afrobarometer survey, has seen more than 2.2 million people flee into the wider region since the outbreak of civil conflict in 2013.
Nor does the survey include Eritrea, from where the UN says around 2,500 refugees cross the border into Ethiopia every month.
What barriers to travel do people face?
Freedom of movement across international borders within the local region should become a reality, 56% of survey respondents have told Afrobarometer.
But the same proportion say they find it difficult to cross borders to work or trade in another country.
In recent years Namibia, Mauritius, Ghana, Rwanda, Benin and Kenya have all loosened travel restrictions for other African nationals, and now either grant a visa on arrival or allow for visits of up to 90 days with just a passport.
But citizens of African countries still need a visa to travel to more than half of the continent’s 54 countries, protecting borders drawn up by European colonisers more than a century ago.
“Somebody like me, despite the size of our group, I need 38 visas to move around Africa,” complained Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote in an interview in 2016.

101 countries South Africans can visit without a visa

Any local without an ancestral visas or dual citizenship knows travelling on a plain old green South African passport is no joke.
Before even thinking about entering most countries around the world, we are required to pass the ultimate endurance test: a visa application.
Yet, the South African passport is the most powerful African passport, the latest data published by the Henley Passport Index shows – a list of world passports, ranked from the most powerful to the weakest, based on how many other countries one can visit with that passport visa-free or with a visa-on-arrival/e-visa.
As of January 2019, South African passport holders can travel to 101 world countries without the need to apply for a visa prior to their trip.
South Africans can travel to and enter 67 countries without any type of visa. There is another 34, which they can enter by obtaining a visa on arrival or enter on a free e-visa at the port of entry of their destination country.
The overall global list is topped by three Asian countries Japan, Singapore and South Korea, followed by the EU/EEA countries.
All in all there are 101 countries around the globe we can enter on our passports alone, and while they may not be the US, Canada, Australia or most of Europe, there are some pretty exciting places to go.
Here’s a round-up all the countries you can either visit visa-free or get a visa on arrival with a valid passport:
Africa
Most SADC countries are accessible to us without a visa, as long as we’re going there for vacation. Any form of work – even volunteering – requires some form of a visa, so make 100% sure what the rules are beforehand.
Here is the full list of African countries we can enter without visas:
Angola, Benin, Botswana, Djibouti, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Saint Helena, Senegal, Seychelles, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Somalia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
And then a few where we get a visa on arrival:
Cape Verde, Comoros, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Tanzania, Togo Tunisia and Uganda.
South and Central America
The good news is that pretty much the ENTIRE South and central America is accessible to us on nothing but a passport, with the exception of, among others, Suriname, French Guiana, Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico.
Here is a full list of the South and Central American countries we can enter on our passport:
Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, British Virgin Islands, Bolivia Cayman Islands, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Falkland Islands, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uruguay and Venezuela.
North America
Sorry, folks, it’s a no go. Visas are a must. Check out what you need for the US Visa application process.
Europe
Well, it’s mostly closed to us, but there are a few surprising destinations we can enter sans visa.
Ireland, Kosovo, Russia, Georgia and France’s Reunion Island.
Asia
Hong Kong, Macao, Malaysia, Maldives, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
Visa on arrival:
Armenia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Cambodia, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, South Korea, and Timor-Leste
Middle East
Iran, Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar
Free E-visa
Turkey
Oceania
Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated states of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.

Breaking news: Soon no more birth certificates for foreign minors

End in sight for birth certificate requirements for foreign minors travelling with both parents.
Foreign minors travelling with both parents, who have the same surname, will soon no longer have to present a birth certificate when entering South Africa.
This was stated in an updated advisory by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), which was published on Friday March 22.
It has taken the DHA almost four months to correct an advisory it issued on December 1, which was in direct conflict with the regulations it had gazetted the day before the advisory was published.
Tourism Update was the first to highlight the contradiction when we learned that airlines were continuing to deny minors boarding at check-in because of DHA’s errant advisory.
This has now been corrected.
Referring to foreign minors, the key paragraph 3.1 of the advisory has been changed to read: “Where both parents are travelling accompanied by one or more of their children, such children have to produce valid passports and visas, where applicable.” There is no longer any mention of a birth certificate. Minors from countries that require a visa will need to present them when they apply for a visa, but they will not have to travel with them.
As with many countries, there are special requirements for unaccompanied children, where one parent is not present, or the parents have another surname.
However, for practical purposes the regulations will only come into actionable effect once loaded on to the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Information Manual Automatic (Timatic) system – which informs airport ground staff about the border passenger documentation required when entering and leaving SA.
Until such time as the regulation update is loaded on to the system, and is viewable by airline check-in staff, the current requirement of children having to produce valid passports and a BC for each child travelling, remain in place even though contrary to the new regulations.
Tourism Update contacted Iata on Friday to query if the association had received communication from the DHA to update Timatic, and is awaiting its response.
The concession in paragraph 3.1 does not apply to South African minors.
The Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) has welcomed the changes instituted by the DHA, noting in a press release that the amended regulations make it easier for non-South African parents travelling with their children, and believe it will go a long way to increase tourist arrivals.

University of Johannesburg holds summit to find out if South Africans welcome refugees

The Constitutional Hill played host to a summit earlier this week with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public Human Rights, and International Law (SAIFAC). The summit was aimed at finding out if South Africans were welcoming to refugees as stipulated in the White Paper (PDF).
According to The Citizen, the SAIFAC states that what is written in the White Paper on International Migration is not the reality that the asylum seekers are experiencing. The South African asylum and refugee system conducts individual refugee status determination, which results in an estimated 90-plus percent of refusals, added SAIFAC.
“The system is slow and unjust and once you are caught in SA without the legal document you get arrested. South Africans are not welcoming to foreign nationals. The government and the people are very hostile towards foreign nationals,” noted director of the Refugee Rights Unit, Dr. Fatima Khan.
SAIFAC then suggested a programme called Global Impact, that could lessen pressure when it came to dealing with foreign nationals and would be self-reliant.
Prof. Loren Landau, the director of the African Centre for Migration and Society argued a different point of view than that of Khan.
“We are more welcoming than any other country in the world, the challenge is the socio-economic issue that we are facing of unemployment and poverty. If you look at the stats, refugees are doing way better than the South Africans, they have better jobs, health care system, and can afford the best houses,” added Landau.
“We are facing a huge problem at the home affairs. Our duty is to visit schools and hospitals in order to inform mothers that once they give birth, they need to come to Home Affairs with proper documents so that we can make birth certificates,” concluded Home Affairs spokesperson, Minah Malakoane.
As for what the next steps will be in addressing refugees entering the country, and being more welcoming of them, remains to be seen.

No need to panic over new critical skills list expected next month

In September last year, then minister of the home affairs, Malusi Gigaba announced that a new critical skills list is expected to be released in April 2019.
The industry is in turmoil as business and providers scramble to submit visa applications prior to the list being published and certain categories removed.
But there’s no need to panic, yet.
The Department of Home Affairs confirms the critical skills list will first be published in draft format and distributed for public consultation prior to finalising and legislating the new list.
The draft list is expected to be signed off by the Minister and distributed next month.
Co-operation with business
On the one hand there is no list which will always be absolutely complete and comprehensive, in a specific place and time.
The requirements always evolve with time. Such as with the new oil and gas opportunities, we know there will be expansion in this area on the critical skills list.
My firm has never failed to obtain a work permit for a foreigner where we can show that a local job is not taken and there is valid commercial rationale.
The critical skills list is but one of various categories of obtaining a work visa.
Preview of anticipated draft list
The new list is much shorter than the current list, probably as Home Affairs saw many of the old categories not being used.
A positive development is that the draft version of the new list is more concentrated, by adding certain categories together.
The removal of the Corporate General Manager category has received much attention.
“We believe this category has been largely abused by many given rise to the proposed removal thereof.”
In its current form it is in need of a revamp.
We agree that this category will or should not be removed in its entirety and the consultative process will provide the input required for the Department of Home Affairs to more directly and suitably define this skill and the form it should take on this list to curb abuse.

Expat tax is ultimately fair – expert

The “hype” created about the changes to the South African Income Tax Act relating to tax exemption of employment income earned abroad, is clouding its fairness – according to Hilary Dudley, managing director of Citadel Fiduciary.

The changes will come into effect on March 1, 2020 and have been a cause of concern for many South Africans working abroad who currently pay no tax if they meet certain criteria. When the changes to the act come into effect, however, only R1m of this income will be exempt from tax in SA.
She points out that the impact of the changes is likely to be felt the most by South Africans working in tax havens. Many of these tax havens have high levels of indirect taxes such as VAT, but no payroll tax.
“Let’s look at this without the emotion attached. If an expat is earning money outside SA; but still owns property, has a family who lives here and wants to be seen as a South African; it is realistic for such a person to be required to pay some level of direct tax,” says Dudley.
In her view, the R1m threshold is reasonable considering the tax thresholds enjoyed by employees working in South Africa.
“Admittedly, most affected taxpayers are probably earning hard currency and the current weakened rand will to some extent, negate the impact of the R1m exemption. But expats do need to be taxed in some way,” says Dudley.
“If an expat is already paying direct tax in another country, then the effect of the new SA tax may be mitigated by tax paid elsewhere in terms of a double tax agreement with possible minimal effect.”
Dudley is of the view that Treasury is more likely to be targeting individuals such as pilots or oil rig workers who effectively retain a base in SA, but who work for an offshore company.
Until now, these individuals were exempt from paying tax in SA, despite enjoying the benefits of their families living in the country.
Another possible problem scenario she highlights relates to people who left South Africa years ago, although they have not financially emigrated. They may no longer be regarded as tax resident in SA because they have been living abroad for such a long time.
She points out that it is also worth noting the impact of cross-border information sharing on the implementation of expat tax changes.
Since expats have always been required to complete a tax return in South Africa, even if they were exempt from paying income tax on foreign employment income, this information is already available to the SA Revenue Service (SARS).
On top of that, due to information sharing between countries and banks, SARS will know exactly how much is paid into anyone’s bank account.
“Information sharing agreements were specifically noted by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in his 2019 National Budget as a key focus area for fixing SARS and tightening the tax net,” cautions Dudley.
“This means expats too will increasingly be on SARS’ radar, underlining the importance of ensuring that your affairs are in order and in compliance with these new proposed amendments.”
Fin24 reported earlier that, despite hosting a workshop recently where they were given feedback from experts in the financial industry, National Treasury and SARS are not budging on an amendment to the foreign income tax exemption.
Jonty Leon, a tax attorney at Tax Consulting SA, tells Fin24 one major point of contention is the taxation of certain fringe benefits. “That means the exemption of only R1m stays and at the same time fringe benefits and allowances will become taxable.”

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