Archive from August, 2019

Job creation hampered by tourism visa rules and Eskom SA’s unemployment rate has climbed to its highest level since 2008

SA is not able to create jobs due to stringent tourism visa rules and unreliable electricity supply, a report following Cyril Ramaphosa’s job summit showed on Thursday, days after official data revealed that the unemployment rate had climbed to its highest level since 2008.
At the summit in 2018, Ramaphosa pledged to create 100,000 new jobs, a feat that looked impossible in an economy that has hardly grown over the last decade and with power utility Eskom struggling to shoulder a mountain of debt and keep the lights on.

Are water shortages driving migration? Researchers dispel myths

STOCKHOLM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Water scarcity is one factor driving millions of people from their homes each year but is often not the only reason why they move, researchers told an international conference on Tuesday.
In most cases, other economic and social problems like conflict, corruption or a lack of jobs contribute to the decision to leave, they said.
They warned against over-simplifying the links between water and migration, and said many of those who do move – at least partly because of water-related pressures such as floods, droughts and pollution – may not travel far.
“International migration is very expensive and very risky and it lies beyond the reach of many of the poorest people who are most vulnerable to water security and drought,” said Guy Jobbins of the London-based Overseas Development Institute.
Those who suffer water-related shocks to their livelihoods – losing animals or crops – “are less likely to have the funds to start again in South Africa or France”, he told an audience at World Water Week in Stockholm.
Conversely, there was some evidence to suggest that people who have better access to secure, affordable water are more likely to have enough financial resources to migrate, he added.
Although much is made of international migration, most movement related to water is inside countries, often from one rural place to another, said Sasha Koo-Oshima, deputy director of land and water at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Three out of four of the world’s poor live in rural areas and rely heavily on agricultural production, with food insecurity, water contamination and drought forcing people from their homes – especially the young, she added.
Efforts should be stepped up to prevent water scarcity and make it profitable for young people to stay on rural land, she said.
But if people do leave, “it is not necessarily a negative phenomenon”, as humans have always moved in search of a better life, she added.
Researchers also called for a more sophisticated analysis of how mass migration impacts on water supplies.
In Jordan – the world’s second most water-scarce country, according to Hussam Hussein, a Middle East water researcher at Germany’s University of Kassel – a large influx of refugees from Syria, after civil war broke out there in 2011, led to tensions with their host communities, especially in cities.
Jordan hosts about 750,000 Syrians, the vast majority in urban areas, according to the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). But contrary to public discourse, their presence is not the main cause of the country’s water shortages, said Hussein.
“When we look at the numbers, the impact of refugees is not as important as unsustainable use (of water) in the agricultural sector,” he said.
Mismanagement of water resources, leaks, illegal wells and intensive farming made up the majority of water losses in parched Jordan, he added.
In war-torn Syria, water scarcity and climate-related events such as drought had been a “trigger” for the conflict but not a primary cause, said Fatine Ezbakhe of the Mediterranean Youth for Water Network.
Instead a lack of water amplified political instability and poverty that fueled migration and unrest, she added.
Now improvements to water supplies could be used to persuade people to return home, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“If we actually invest in water, we could… try to make people go back and restart (in) the rural areas they left in the first place,” she said.
Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking and property rights.

New critical skills list for SA expected in 2020 Potential immigrants can use the ‘critical skills visa’ to seek legal status

The department of higher education has begun the lengthy process of compiling a new list of critical skills that will be used to determine whether a foreigner may apply for a visa to live and work in SA.
The “critical skills visa” is one of a few options that potential immigrants can use to seek legal status, and aims to ensure that only individuals whose skills are in short supply are able to settle in the country. The existing list, which was compiled and gazetted in 2014, includes a long list of occupations.
Earlier in 2019, a new draft list that was more restrictive came into circulation. Immigration lawyers, who received the list from officials at home affairs, say that the list was intermittently applied, although not officially. Among the major changes is that the category of corporate general manager has been excised — an omission that has raised concern among business organisations.
Business has lobbied government for many years to open up the economy to easier immigration of skilled people, which it believes will be positive for economic growth, but mostly without success.
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That draft list is now in abeyance and a process is under way to compile a new list. The department of higher education says it is working closely with home affairs and other relevant government departments, such as the department of trade and industry and the department of employment and labour to compile a new report.
In response to questions, the department said on Tuesday that the draft list would emerge in about November and would be refined by March 2020.
“This year, the department of higher education and training will be producing the report on the critical skills. This report will form the basis upon which the critical skills list will be developed, gazetted and published by the department of home affairs. We anticipate that the report on the critical skills will be ready by the end of March next year,” spokesperson Ishmael Mnisi said.

Obstructionist home affairs officials bar entry of foreign investors

No matter how conducive new legislation is to immigration, its success will depend on how it is implemented
Recent news reports point to an ever-weakening economy, shocking unemployment levels and a worrying skills exodus. The taxpayer base is being eroded as the very South Africans qualified to build the economy leave the country in droves.
While SA loses skills, business capital and jobs as a result, other countries are gaining — partly thanks to their initiatives to offer “golden visas”, in which applicants must invest heavily in their destination country and are given residency or citizenship in return. These golden, or investor, visas, offered by more than 20 countries worldwide, require investments of R2m-R20m and are reported to have grossed more than €25bn in Europe alone during the past 10 years.
Applicants are often required to invest in property and some form of national development fund for a minimum period, bringing significant revenues into the destination country. In addition to their financial investment, new residents or citizens also bring with them spending power, skills, tax revenues and the probable creation of jobs in their new home country.
Severely challenged in its efforts to raise the necessary revenues to improve public service delivery, SA surprisingly not only does not tap into this potential pot of gold but it actively closes its borders to foreigners keen to bring investment, skills and business capability into the country.
SA appears to regard all foreigners with suspicion, making visa, residency and citizenship applications a complex nightmare that actively deters foreigners, despite the fact that many foreigners would like to invest and live in SA.
As an immigration specialist, we receives numerous inquiries from wealthy individuals looking to purchase property for leisure use, and from skilled individuals wanting to work or open businesses in SA. While it may seem surprising to South Africans who want to emigrate, many foreigners see SA’s weather, tourist facilities, game reserves and general quality of life as attractive drawcards.
It is simply easier to acquire a visa fraudulently than to endure the emotional strain of acquiring a visa lawfully, which could take years because in most instances administrative appeals are necessary
For each foreigner investing in a holiday home, wine farm or safari lodge and for every skilled entrepreneur setting up shop in SA, we see a multitude of jobs being created and much-needed tax revenue generated.
Yet SA persists in locking down its borders. The home affairs department’s processes are beset with delays. Its officials enforce internal policies over the laws of the country, and wrongful application refusals result in lengthy and expensive legal battles for applicants.
Compounding these challenges, the critical skills list looks set to omit designations such as corporate GMs and financial investment advisers, excluding foreign applicants highly skilled in the fields of business development and finance. Visas and permits are refused daily without any justifiable grounds. Applications for even the simplest visa are all too often resolved through litigation, and even then the department frequently does not comply with court orders.
It is simply easier to acquire a visa fraudulently than to endure the emotional strain of acquiring a visa lawfully, which could take years because in most instances administrative appeals are necessary. Unsurprisingly, a growing number of fraudulent visas appear to be in circulation.
Despite our president’s call to “open borders” and urging South Africans to look at foreigners coming to SA positively, the department of home affairs, which is responsible for regulating the entry of foreigners into SA, appears to be tightening immigration controls against skilled foreigners, foreign teachers, wealthy business people and retirees, refusing to issue visas to these individuals for reasons that extend far beyond the scope of the Immigration Act.
Encouraging interest
Our firm was co-founder of a multisectoral task team that recently made recommendations at a meeting with the acting director-general of home affairs and other officials on the question of scarce skills. Concern was voiced about the potential impact the Bill on International Migration and the critical skills list could have on efforts to grow the economy.
Our recommendations were well received, and it was encouraging that the acting director-general has encouraged public participation. However, several of our recommendations to boost foreign investment would require buy-in from other government departments. For instance, our recommendation on reducing the R5m foreign operating capital required to start a business would require a decision by the department of trade & industry, which has shown an encouraging interest and has expressed its wishes and intention to make SA great again.
However, no matter how receptive the acting director-general is to industry recommendations, and no matter how conducive the bill and scarce skills list is to immigration, the success of any new legislation — or efforts to attract foreign investment — will depend on how they are implemented in practice.
This is where the real challenge lies: home affairs officials are well known for their tendency to delay or summarily refuse applications, or make decisions not aligned with the letter and intent of the relevant laws.
These officials need to act with due respect for the law, their constitutional obligations, immigration jurisprudence and the rights of people and in the best interests of the country to attract foreign skills and investment and support the government’s economic growth objectives.

Mother challenges home affairs

Mail & Guardian 16 Aug 2019
Chantel* was only 15 years old when she hopped the Eswatini-South African border in early 2007. She says she lived her whole life in an orphanage in Manzini, never knew her biological parents and never saw her birth certificate.
Abuse was rife. “The conditions were unbearable.
We were not properly cared for. We were frequently physically disciplined,” she says. “I lived in fear; I suffered significant emotional and psychological distress.”
Unable to tolerate the abuse, she started siphoning off some of the money she earned from selling detergents to fundraise for the orphanage. When she had enough, she took a bus to the border and a customs officer helped her cross over. She says she knew it was illegal.
Chantel was known by a different name at the orphanage but she changed it when she arrived “so that I could not be traced and sent back”.
In many ways her life improved in South Africa. She headed to Durban where she met a South African and the couple started life together in the Durban North suburb of Red Hill. They had two children, one born in 2007 and the other in 2014.
When it was time for her firstborn child to go to school, Chantel realised the pain of her own statelessness. Because Chantel’s partner is South African, both of her children are legitimately South African, but because Chantel had no documentation at all, her children were never issued with birth certificates. No school in South Africa will enrol a child without a birth certificate.
The couple made several attempts to have the children’s births registered with the department of home affairs — providing clinic notes and records from the local hospitals where they were born — but they were always turned away. And the educational authorities were not willing to help.
By 2016, Chantel’s oldest child was already eight years old and had not yet been enrolled at school. The couple turned to the Legal Resources Centre, where advocate Stuart Humphrey, acting pro bono, agreed to draft an urgent court application.
The first prize was to get the child enrolled without having to produce a birth certificate. Education authorities, acting in the child’s best interests, backed down.
KwaZulu-Natal chief education specialist Busisiwe Gcabashe said, in an affidavit: “We undertook to enrol the child at school on condition that … [the child’s parents] submit the birth certificate once it is available. This was because we appreciate and respect the child’s constitutional rights to education. And that [the child] is a South African citizen by birth.” Gcabashe said, however, that the entire matter was largely dependent on the attitude of the department of home affairs.
Chantel’s appeal to this department was that it issue the children with birth certificates and issue her with a visa, or grant her permanent residence, to formalise her status in South Africa.
To this end, Chantel’s lawyers are attacking the Regulations to the Births and Deaths Registration Act, which makes no provision for the registration of a birth where one of the parents does not have any proof of identification.
Part of the lawyers’ research has involved tracking Chantel’s early history and the name she no longer uses. But neither the Eswatini authorities, her lawyers or the department of home affairs have been able to unearth any records for Chantel under any of her names: not the one she hasn’t used since she was a child in Manzini, nor her current name.
She is stateless and her children are stateless. To make matters worse, Chantel’s common-law husband died last year. While her children are now both attending school, without their birth certificates, this situation cannot carry on indefinitely.
Chantel’s is one of the cases that will be argued in the Durban high court later this month, but will in all likelihood have to be decided by the Constitutional Court.
The department of home affairs, however, has not been swayed. Richard Sikakane, director of travel documents and citizenship at the department, said it “strongly opposes” Chantel’s application and that it would be unlawful for a court to direct the department to bypass legislative prescripts for an “illegal immigrant” who lied about her name.
“We disagree that she is stateless. I seriously dispute that any person can be born stateless,” Sikakane said. “She admits that she was born in Swaziland [Eswatini]. Her identity can be traced and affidavits can be obtained from family members there and the process of establishing her identity can start there.”
But Chantel is not able to travel to Eswatini because she has no passport or ID.
Sikakane says issuing IDs and granting citizenship to unidentified immigrants is not only wrong but would compromise the country’s security. “There are no shortcuts. Holding the government at ransom to break the law cannot be condoned,” he said.
A recent report compiled by the Scalabrini Centre, which is based in Cape Town and provides services to migrants and refugees, documented the plight of 325 foreign-born children in South Africa. Most of these children are undocumented and they face the threat of statelessness once they turn 18.
Among those interviewed were two sisters, thought to have come to South Africa from Kenya with their mother. They were discovered living in a car and taken to a child and youth care centre. Their mother then disappeared. The Kenyan authorities do not recognise these girls as Kenyan nationals and the South Africa authorities don’t recognise them as South African.
The scalabrini Centre’s advocacy officer, Lotte Manicom, says urgent measures, including law reform, are needed to counter this situation.
“Present immigration laws and regulations prevent the opportunity for these children to document themselves,” she said.
“It is foreseen that many of the children will have no choice but to return to their country of origin (if they can) once their placement order is no longer valid or extendable.”
She recommended that the department of home affairs roll out a “special dispensation permit” to allow these children to remain in South Africa and, in certain instances, that citizenship be granted to them.
In acknowledging the vital need for an ID, Manicom added that the documented children in question were all aged between 11 and 18, that they originated from 15 different African countries and that some were fleeing war and persecution.
“A variety of rights flow from an identity document,” Manicom noted. “It establishes a nationality, an identity, and an ability to function in a formal society. For a child, an identification document is crucial in their ability to access their most basic rights, and to plan a meaningful future.”

A gem of an employee at Home Affairs

12 August 2019 – Cape Town
We, as South Africans, always complain about government service, however, I am extremely excited to report that my son arrived at Home Affairs on Wednesday morning on July 31 with an expectation of long queues, disinterested staff and very little help.
After a short wait a manager, by the name of Angelina Joshua, received him at a counter.
Not only was Mrs Joshua extremely helpful, pleasant, friendly and responsive, she was also extremely knowledgeable.
She explained very carefully to him what needed to be done and guided him through what could have been an extremely difficult process.
Every now and again we come across absolute gems in our civil service who go beyond the call of duty and certainly need accolades from their senior management.
We all understand that many positions within our civil service are difficult and the public certainly don’t make their job any easier, however, when we encounter someone as helpful as Mrs Joshua, we must remember to sing their praises.
Well done to Home Affairs in Barrack Street, Cape Town

Ramaphosa signs ‘debt relief bill’

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law the controversial National Credit Amendment Bill which is geared to provide relief to over-indebted consumers.
The legislation, also known as the “Debt Intervention Bill”, will enable low-income workers to extract themselves from debt through a process of debt restructuring if they earn a gross income of R7 500 or less per month, have unsecured debt of R50 000, or have been found to be critically indebted, but fears have been raised that it could in fact drive up the cost of loans and limit access to credit.
One of the clauses on the bill require debt counsellors to report suspected reckless lending, in an attempt to discourage registered financial service providers from engaging in reckless extension of credit.
The controversial bill also allow intervention for over-indebted consumers earning R7 500 per month or less. The first step in the intervention process involves debt restructuring, giving consumers five years to pay their debt, as well as the extinguishing of debt.
In September, the chairperson of Parliament’s trade and industry committee Joanmariae Fubbs, explained that debt will only be extinguished for those seeking relief after all other measures have been exhausted.
South African consumers are currently battling the effects of the tough economic climate and rising unemployment, which has hit savings.