Archive from March, 2019

Home affairs foils  ‘SA open for business

At the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa was open for business.
For those who are cognisant of the truth, South Africa has become an armoured fortress with its drawbridges decidedly raised.
Responsibility for regulating the entry of foreigners into South Africa belongs to the department of home affairs.
Not only was the department a target of state capture during the Zuma era, the cabal of the department’s leadership also remains firmly in place, steadily tightening immigration control against even the most qualified of people.
Retirees who have traditionally spent billions of rands in foreign currency are routinely barred if they do not receive pensions, or are not of retirement age. Critically skilled, degreed foreigners are excluded from general management positions without any justifiable grounds. Their applications are rejected again and again, under the same cookie-cutter pretexts.

Meanwhile, business visa applications for entrepreneurs are sunk in hyper-bureaucracy and corruption on an industrial scale that continues to prevail with total impunity.
There are probably more fabricated visas in circulation than visas acquired lawfully, because to acquire a visa lawfully takes persistence, inconvenience, tireless patience and perhaps an administrative appeal or two. Most healthy-minded foreigners would rather pay a fee for a fabricated sticker in a passport than go through the emotional strain of acquiring the simplest visa through legal channels.
As a consequence of this administrative collapse — and, if not collapse, then entrenched xenophobia — foreigners have never before litigated against the department in such numbers for the smallest benefit. Even then, the department does not comply with court orders. The state attorney’s office has been transformed into a Kafkaesque bulldog that defends even the most indefensible claims of the department, at any cost. Ultimately, the taxpayer carries the burden of the state’s bureaucratic malfeasance.
This has been the reality since Jacob Zuma succeeded in repositioning the locus of power in the executive authority — including the public administration — divesting both the legislature and the judiciary of their pre-eminence.
Noncompliance with court orders is now the norm, not the exception. So the rule of law is on the back burner and government officials enjoy unbridled power.
During the Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki years, judicial review was always a last resort. Government was responsive and amenable to compromise, and safeguarded valuable cases for judicial resolution. When Zuma was president he succeeded in defrocking the judiciary to protect himself and his system of patronage from the slightest challenge.
It was Zuma’s Cabinet, too, that adopted the white paper on international migration for South Africa, published in July 2017. A careful reading of the document reveals that its foundations are too weak to support a reformulation of immigration policy for South Africa, a view that I conveyed in the Mail & Guardian in November last year.
The white paper contains atrocious falsities and has no foundations in empirical data. Ramaphosa’s Cabinet should keep it in abeyance until such time as policymakers have conducted the necessary research and analysis, and are able to arrive at their conclusions in a rational manner.
A sensible approach would be for Ramaphosa to establish a committee of immigration advisers as a parallel think tank to the department of home affairs’ leaders. The latter grouping has never succeeded in running an efficient immigration system, or in formulating an immigration policy based on empirical evidence, in the best interests of this country and its economy. The white paper is founded on this very observation.
A November 2018 World Bank study does, however, provide evidence of the economic benefits of in-migration.
The report shows that immigrants had a positive effect on jobs and wages in South Africa between 1996 and 2011, and highlights their tendency to increase opportunities for locals and contribute to economic growth.
Everything from Somalian kiosks on street corners and Bangladeshi spaza shops in townships to small and mid-sized Swiss engineering companies, Italian restaurants, Turkish marble importers and multinational corporations is an economic stimulator. Each of these types of entities use and pay for infrastructure, employ South Africans, pay tax, purchase goods and services from South African suppliers, and even introduce large amounts of foreign currency that benefit our low foreign reserves.
The World Bank study underlines the importance of political will for furthering policies based on empirical evidence, not entrenched political and financial interests.
Without proper analysis, positive socioeconomic outcomes are beyond the reach of locals and foreigners alike.
Any attempts at building an intelligent immigration system for this country tend to be hijacked by national security concerns. It does not help that the current minister of home affairs, Siyabonga Cwele, was Zuma’s first state security minister.
State security and the securitisation of our borders is only one dimension of an effective immigration system.
The building of an economically beneficial immigration policy depends on its decoupling from national security.
Similarly, while the rule of law remains so deeply imperilled in terms of the processing and adjudication of immigration and citizenship applications, South Africa cannot be considered “open for business”.
www.samigration.com
let us help you through this minefield

‘The reality is most negative things we hear about immigrants are not true’

With election season in full swing, one of the key areas of contestation is political party’s tough immigration policies.
In his budget speech, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni noted that immigrants have played a significant role in the success of some of the largest economies in the world.
Political analyst at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) Professor Steven Friedman wrote a provocative piece on the Business Day on Wednesday.
Speaking to Bongani Bingwa, Friedman cites that hostility towards immigrants is harmful to the economy and that Mboweni is the only public figure who seems willing to say this.
If you speak to people about South Africa, many say it is depressing – we have immigration, a lack of skills. And the logical answer to that is that if people with skills want to come to the country, let them come to the country.
— Professor Steven Friedman, Political analyst – UJ
Sadly we don’t do that, he says.
We are entering election season and political parties are competing with each other to show who is tough on immigrants, and when you call them out, they say, no it is the people that want that.
— Professor Steven Friedman, Political analyst – UJ
My view is that if the only message that the public hears from the politicians is that immigrants are bad, you can’t blame the public for assuming that when things go bad, it is the fault of the immigrants.
— Professor Steven Friedman, Political analyst – UJ
He adds that it is the responsibility of public figures to portray an accurate picture of immigrants in South Africa.
The reality is most negative things we hear about immigrants are not true.
— Professor Steven Friedman, Political analyst – UJ

South Africa’s massive immigration problem

For every skilled professional coming to South Africa, eight are leaving.
This was the major finding of an Enterprise Observatory of South Africa (EOSA) report released in January.
The researchers found that while a large number of white professionals were making the jump, in recent years, the annual number of black professionals leaving South Africa exceeds the tally of professional white emigrants.
The EOSA estimated that between 1989 and 2003, over 120,000 of the 520,000 mainly white emigrants had professional qualifications (one in four) and SA lost 7% of its total stock of professionals.
“Considering that the 1990 to 2003 emigration of skills continued despite the return of stabilisation under Mandela and Mbeki, one can easily state that at least a similar number of white professional people have left between 2004 and 2018 – amounting to at least a quarter million of white professionals,” said Johannes Wessels, director of EOSA.
“(However), the last phase of the Zuma catastrophe as well as the embrace by the ANC of expropriation without compensation have led to an acceleration of skilled emigration – this time from all race groups.”
Damage to the economy
Speaking to BusinessTech chief economist at the Efficient Group, Dawi Roodt, said that the number of skilled South Africans leaving the country is a massive problem for the economy.
He said that this has been exacerbated by South Africa’s current immigration policies and the restrictions on workers trying to enter the country.
“South Africa cannot attract skilled foreigners to come and work in the country,” he said.
“When we talk about skilled foreigners I don’t just mean guys with PhDs, I also mean plumbers and other trade workers who typically come from other African countries who are also finding it difficult to enter the country.
“Without a doubt, we are losing a lot of highly-skilled and normally skilled South Africans of all races.”
Roodt said that this was not only due to the country’s politics, but also due to its poor economy.
“At the end of the day, people with skills want to ensure that they have a financial future in South Africa.
“However, they also want to feel welcome, safe, and that their children have access to quality education and medical treatment – and I am afraid this country is facing certain challenges when it comes to those things

MPs concerned about Home Affairs’ contract for visas

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs wants the renewal of a contract to outsource the processing of visas reviewed, likening it to the controversial Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract.
On Tuesday, the committee resolved to write to Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele to review the contract with VFS Global.
The committee heard that the contract with VFS Global was renewed for two years in December, without it going through the open tender procurement process. The department initially contracted VFS Global in 2010.
Chief director of immigration services at the department Richard Stolz said the extension of the contract “was legally provided for”. He said there would have been an “immense” reputational risk to the department if there was a discontinuity in their operating model.
But MPs are highly critical of the deal.
DA MP Haniff Hoosen said it destroyed job creation in South Africa because the deal meant that several local companies providing visa services had to close their doors.
ANC MP and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism Lusizo Sharon Makhubela-Mashele, who also attended the meeting, likened it to the South Africa Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) controversial dealings with CPS.
Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke also subscribed to this idea.
“The extension creates a perception of another Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), which was the only service provider at the South Africa Social Security Agency said to have the capacity to render services. It is even more concerning that the department has extended the scope of work of VFS to establish services in countries it did not have previously,” Chauke said in a statement released after the meeting.
Several MPs said it seemed like the law was amended to deliberately give VFS Global a monopoly.
“Maybe, if we can’t conclude these issues, we must refer it to the Zondo commission [into state capture]. It is part of state capture,” Chauke said.
“Deliberately, you have amended legislation to create this monopoly. It killed all the small players.”
After being castigated by the committee, deputy director general of immigration services Jackie Mckay said: “We note all of the issues that are raised here.”
He acknowledged that it was not the first time that the committee had raised it.
“We take note of it.”
He said before the contract expired, they had started with an open tender process, but in April last year received a legal opinion to not follow such a process.
“That threw a spanner in the works,” Mckay said.
“We have no interest in who is delivering the service, as long as the service is delivered to us.”
Mckay said “serious, serious capacity problems” had been the bane of his existence.
“We just don’t have the staff.”
He said they had approached Treasury on several occasions, to no avail. This did little to appease the committee.
In his statement, Chauke said the committee would like to hear from Cwele about the possibility of going out on an open tender process and his plans to build capacity within the department to quickly process visa applications.
Cwele will be expected to respond to the committee within a week to ensure that the matter is dealt with before Parliament rises.
“While the committee acknowledges that Parliament has no right to inform the department on whom to contract for services, it would be a dereliction of its duty if it did not highlight cases where the department is deliberately breaking its own rules and guidelines,” read the statement.
“It is even more concerning that capacity in key tourism markets, such as Nigeria and India, is lacking, leading to few processed applications impacting on the numbers of tourists coming into the country,” Chauke said.
VFS Global describes itself as the “world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide” on its website.
“The company manages the administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to visa, passport, identity management and other citizen services for its client governments. This enables them to focus entirely on the critical task of assessment.”
The company’s headquarters are in Dubai, its parentage is Swiss and it is a portfolio company of EQT, a global private equity firm headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.
Last week, the committee also asked Cwele to investigate the department’s contract for the automated biometric identification system with technology company EOH.

It just became much easier to wipe out a bad-debt judgment once you’ve paid up – but you may not want to

• An amendment to the law on how courts deal with bad-debt judgments came into operation this week.
• It means that once the debt is fully paid rescission – wiping out a judgment – is now possible without the need to show ‘good cause’.
• It is probably easier and cheaper for individuals to just reverse blacklisting at credit bureaus, though, but companies will benefit.
________________________________________
It just became a whole lot easier to reverse a bad debt judgment in South Africa.
As of this week it is no longer necessary to show a court that there is a good reason to wipe out such a judgment, in a (previously fairly painful) process known as rescission.
Instead an individual or company now just has to show that the debt has been paid, in full and with any interest plus any costs that were due. On that basis alone a judge can reverse a bad-debt judgement, with or without the consent of the party that originally obtained the debt judgement, and can do so in chambers, without even the need for a court appearance.
That new system is set out in section 14 of a change to legislation, the Courts of Law Amendment Act, dating from mid-2017. But section 14, dealing with bad-debt judgments, only came into force on Monday, when President Cyril Ramaphosa declared it to be in effect.
Laywers who deal with debt collection and blacklisted consumers say the change is a radical one, yet will have surprisingly little real-world impact for blacklisted consumers, while companies could benefit significantly.
Until this week a debtor with an outstanding judgment had to provide “good cause” as to why such a judgment had to be reversed, says Nicole Andrews of Joselowitz & Andrews Attorneys, a firm with a special interest in debt matters.
Such actions tended to be complex and costly, with no guarantee that a court would accept the reasons given.
But practically speaking, many blacklisted people who have rehabilitated their finances may not end up using the new provision.
A bad-debt judgment will typically see consumers blacklisted by credit bureaus. Checks for new credit are usually against those credit bureau databases, not against court records themselves. And as of February 2014, in terms of regulations that apply to credit bureaus, they are required to remove information that related to bad-debt judgments once such debts have been paid.
That means a blacklisted person can write to the credit bureaus, have the details of a judgment removed, and access new credit, without having to go to court at all.
“For individuals who have paid their judgment debts in full, I would suggest having the listings removed in terms of the amnesty regulations; it is a quicker and more cost effective remedy than attending to a court application,” says Natasha La Vita of Berndt & La Vita Attorneys, which deals both in debt collection for companies and credit rehabilitation for blacklisted consumers.
That quick and cheap credit-bureau route only applies to individuals though, La Vita points out, while the new rules on judgment rescission can also be used by companies that have paid off their debts in full.

MPs concerned about Home Affairs’ contract for visas

The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs wants the renewal of a contract to outsource the processing of visas reviewed, likening it to the controversial Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract.
On Tuesday, the committee resolved to write to Minister of Home Affairs Siyabonga Cwele to review the contract with VFS Global.
The committee heard that the contract with VFS Global was renewed for two years in December, without it going through the open tender procurement process. The department initially contracted VFS Global in 2010.
Chief director of immigration services at the department Richard Stolz said the extension of the contract “was legally provided for”. He said there would have been an “immense” reputational risk to the department if there was a discontinuity in their operating model.
But MPs are highly critical of the deal.
DA MP Haniff Hoosen said it destroyed job creation in South Africa because the deal meant that several local companies providing visa services had to close their doors.
ANC MP and chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Tourism Lusizo Sharon Makhubela-Mashele, who also attended the meeting, likened it to the South Africa Social Security Agency’s (Sassa’s) controversial dealings with CPS.
Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke also subscribed to this idea.
“The extension creates a perception of another Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), which was the only service provider at the South Africa Social Security Agency said to have the capacity to render services. It is even more concerning that the department has extended the scope of work of VFS to establish services in countries it did not have previously,” Chauke said in a statement released after the meeting.
Several MPs said it seemed like the law was amended to deliberately give VFS Global a monopoly.
“Maybe, if we can’t conclude these issues, we must refer it to the Zondo commission [into state capture]. It is part of state capture,” Chauke said.
“Deliberately, you have amended legislation to create this monopoly. It killed all the small players.”
After being castigated by the committee, deputy director general of immigration services Jackie Mckay said: “We note all of the issues that are raised here.”
He acknowledged that it was not the first time that the committee had raised it.
“We take note of it.”
He said before the contract expired, they had started with an open tender process, but in April last year received a legal opinion to not follow such a process.
“That threw a spanner in the works,” Mckay said.
“We have no interest in who is delivering the service, as long as the service is delivered to us.”
Mckay said “serious, serious capacity problems” had been the bane of his existence.
“We just don’t have the staff.”
He said they had approached Treasury on several occasions, to no avail. This did little to appease the committee.
In his statement, Chauke said the committee would like to hear from Cwele about the possibility of going out on an open tender process and his plans to build capacity within the department to quickly process visa applications.
Cwele will be expected to respond to the committee within a week to ensure that the matter is dealt with before Parliament rises.
“While the committee acknowledges that Parliament has no right to inform the department on whom to contract for services, it would be a dereliction of its duty if it did not highlight cases where the department is deliberately breaking its own rules and guidelines,” read the statement.
“It is even more concerning that capacity in key tourism markets, such as Nigeria and India, is lacking, leading to few processed applications impacting on the numbers of tourists coming into the country,” Chauke said.
VFS Global describes itself as the “world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide” on its website.
“The company manages the administrative and non-judgmental tasks related to visa, passport, identity management and other citizen services for its client governments. This enables them to focus entirely on the critical task of assessment.”
The company’s headquarters are in Dubai, its parentage is Swiss and it is a portfolio company of EQT, a global private equity firm headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden.
Last week, the committee also asked Cwele to investigate the department’s contract for the automated biometric identification system with technology company EOH.

Parliament wants review of VFS Global’s visa contract

The home affairs committee criticised the department for its decision to grant VFS a two-year extension, saying it violates regulations
Parliament’s home affairs portfolio committee has called on home affairs minister Siyabonga Cwele to review the department’s contract with VFS global.
VFS Global manages visa application centres on behalf of the department.
The appointment of VFS to act as the front-end administrative function for the department came into effect on June 20 2014. The home affairs minister at the time told the media that the appointment of VFS would help speed up functions and make the department more efficient. It also freed badly needed staff from the mundane tasks of handling forms and the collection of information.
All visa and permit applications are first processed at VFS centres. These applications are then assessed by the department of home affairs in Pretoria.
Applicants must now pay an additional fee to VFS, which costs up to R3,000 a person. This fee is applied in cases such as appeals which should be free, immigration lawyers said when it was introduced.
Immigration experts and lawyers argued then that the service fee was not provided for in law and made the acquisition of constitutional requirements such as identity books and birth certificates out of reach for most.
For example, a critical skills visa an applicant who would have normally paid the department R1,520 for the visa will also now have to pay VFS R1,350 for the front-end service.
The minister will be expected to respond to the committee within a week, to ensure that the matter is dealt with before parliament rises on March 20.
The committee criticised the department for its decision to grant VFS Global a two-year extension, saying it is in violation of the Public Finance Management Act and National Treasury regulations on procurement within competitive bidding processes.
“The extension creates a perception of another Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), which was the only service provider at the South Africa Social Security Agency said to have the capacity to render services. It is even more concerning that the department has extended the scope of work of VFS to establish services in countries it did not have previously,” said Hlomani Chauke, who chairs the home affairs committee.
He said it raises concerns about the legitimacy of the contract.
Chauke said that while the committee acknowledged that parliament had no right to inform the department on which companies to contract for services, it would be a dereliction of its duty if it did not highlight cases where the department was deliberately breaking its own rules and guidelines.
Chauke said the lack of capacity at the department to process visa applications was raised as a matter of concern as it hampers the drive to grow SA’s economy through tourism.
“It is even more concerning that capacity in key tourism markets, such as Nigeria and India, is lacking, leading to fewer processed applications and impacting on the numbers of tourists coming into the country,” he said.

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