Archive from May, 2020

Stranger in a strange land – my refugee life in South Africa

I applied for every job on the internet and still could not find employment. I now knew what it meant to be a foreigner.
‘I started looking for employment. I started with tutoring jobs and would go for the interviews only to be told that I can’t be hired because of my refugee status. I applied for every job on the internet and still could not find employment. I now knew what it meant to be a foreigner.’
My parents lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo under very dangerous circumstances and decided to immigrate, my father first and then my mother. They met in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1992 and after a miscarriage in 1993, they finally had twins in 1996 and another baby girl in 1999.
Being a refugee, unlike a migrant, is simply the difference of choice – migrants have a choice, but refugees don’t. South Africa gained freedom and in the same year, my parents applied for asylum seeker papers and were granted it, and later granted refugee status, so they planned to make SA their permanent home.
We lived between Berea and Yeoville in the early 2000s, and I started and completed my pre-school at Cozy Cots Corner at St Georges in Yeoville. In 2003, I then started primary school at Houghton Primary School. I knew I was different because I often got teased for my dark skin. I did not, however, know I was “foreign”, I had always known SA to be my home.
In 2006, my mother really wanted to get us documented, so she went to a group that helped with documentation, called “RCP” and they took us to the Refugee Reception Centre in Rosettenville. We were put under her file, my siblings and I legally became refugees in SA, I did not know what that meant, I continued with my schooling , I was very diligent and did well – I had big hopes and dreams of becoming successful.
In 2010, I started high school at Waverley Girls High School – these were honestly some of my best years, being a teen was fun as I did not have many issues or problems, the teasing stopped. I had self-esteem issues, but was smart so that made up for that. When we were born, my parents were not able to get us birth certificates, they tried and tried for years, but the Department of Home Affairs would always confuse them. Luckily, however, in 2011, Home Affairs came to Yeoville and was documenting children and my parents were able to acquire our unabridged birth certificates.
It was in my matric year that I finally understood what I really was, a foreigner. Home Affairs had come to our school to register people for IDs and I went up to the official and I presented him with my unabridged birth certificate and clinic card, and he said I am not liable to apply for an ID because my birth certificate was unabridged. He then showed me an abridged birth certificate and I was shocked at how different it was. He told me that my parents had to apply for permanent residence and that way I would attain citizenship.
I went home to my parents and they explained that although I was born in South Africa, because they were not South African, I could not get citizenship. I asked them about the permanent residence and my dad told me he was approved by a standing committee in 2006, but did not have the money that was needed for the applications. My dad had never had stable permanent income because he could not get a job.
If this year there are no changes, I don’t see myself living past this year. I will take my life.
Despite that, I wrote my exams using my refugee status and I passed matric with a bachelors pass and a distinction in history. I really wanted to go to varsity and the universities that I had applied to accepted me. I then had to come up with the registration money, but because I was a foreigner, I did not qualify for any scholarships or bursaries despite my good marks. I was forced into taking a gap year. I started doing promo work in 2015 and I saved up for registration for the following year. In 2016, I started a degree at the University of Johannesburg in journalism.
My university years were the hardest years to date. I was severely depressed and had major anxiety issues because of university fees. I had no income and could not apply for funding because of my refugee status. In second year, I was financially excluded because I had not paid my first-year fees.
I cried for days, I loved school and was doing well, I thought my life was over, but luckily a lady at UJ put me in contact with a man that got me unblocked because I had good grades. Still, that year I was not well mentally, I started going to the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development at UJ often – they offered psychological services as I was struggling with depression and anxiety.
In third year, despite owing over R50,000 in fees for first and second year, I managed to apply for the Student Representative Council student fund and was granted the fund which had me unblocked to register for my final year.
Despite not seeing my marks because I owed too much in fees, I still had hope that I would get employment after I graduated so I could pay off the debt. In December 2018, I passed and had acquired my first degree. On 3 April 2019, I graduated despite not getting my certificate because of unpaid fees.
I started looking for employment. I started with tutoring jobs and would go for the interviews only to be told that I can’t be hired because of my refugee status. I applied for every job on the internet and still could not find employment. I now knew what it meant to be a foreigner. I was in a really bad place mentally in 2019, and went to Hillbrow Adolescence Clinic and I was again diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
At the beginning of 2020, I promised myself that I would try. I have already applied for many jobs and again been rejected because I do not have an ID. If this year there are no changes, I don’t see myself living past this year. I will take my life. This is not life and I desperately need help. I want to be able to change the situation of my family. We are currently staying in one room – all four of us – but I have a degree. I need help, please help me.

It takes most foreign-trained doctors months to register in SA. How did Cuban health workers do it in 3 days?

Most foreign-trained doctors spend months trying to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), but visiting Cuban healthcare workers waited just three days – and the HPCSA may have the power to make this possible for more foreign-trained doctors sitting on the sidelines of the Covid-19 response.
On Monday, Gauteng welcomed 28 Cuban doctors to assist in the province’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The group is part of the 187 healthcare workers who arrived from the Caribbean nation on 27 April and are being deployed around the country.
Cuba is known for its strong primary healthcare systems that helped it achieve one of the world’s highest life expectancies, according to World Bank data, despite spending less per person on health than many other nations. It also has a long-standing partnership with South Africa when it comes to health care.
But the arrival of Cuban healthcare workers came as many foreign-trained doctors in South Africa said they were still waiting months, if not years, to register with the HPCSA to practice in the country.
Cuban healthcare workers, meanwhile, benefitted from a long-standing, streamlined process with the HPCSA and one that – as of at least 2018 – was also supposed to apply to other HPCSA-vetted international medical schools. But today, a public list of these schools that was supposed to be updated annually does not exist.
When Jehane Michael le Grange could not get a spot at one of South Africa’s eight medical schools, he sought training in China, he told Bhekisisa recently.
In the May edition of the South Africa Medical Journal, Le Grange and others surveyed 644 internationally trained South African doctors and found that about 70% were either unemployed or not practicing.
Many doctors had either not taken the HPCSA exam, which were postponed during lockdown, or were still waiting on results, he told Bhekisisa.
All other healthcare workers other than nurses must register with the HPCSA to practice regardless of where they trained. Nurses register with the South African Nursing Council.
Le Grange said: “The irony is that the government wants to bring in Cuban and Chinese doctors to help, while many of us who qualified in China and are eager to help are already sitting here twiddling our thumbs.”
Why Cuban doctors were able to bypass the queue
Health Minister Zweli Mkhize was quick to note the incoming Cuban healthcare workers would complement existing drives to hire more local workers during the Covid-19 outbreak. Earlier this year, the Gauteng health department opened more than 400 such positions.
The non-profit Africa Health Placements spent more than a decade recruiting foreign doctors to fill gaps in underserved rural areas.
The organisation closed earlier this year, but its former CEO, Stacey Ann Pillay, says it can take anywhere between nine months and almost two years for foreign-trained healthcare workers to complete the process to register in the country.
They must also first have their qualifications recognised by the HPCSA, the national health department and the US Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.
Timelines also depend on whether or not doctors’ qualifications are deemed to be at the same level as that offered by South African medical schools. If not, doctors may have to compete for scarce internship posts as well.
South African medical students have been training in Cuba since 1996 through the bilateral Mandela-Castro programme. As part of this, the HPCSA reviewed Cuba’s medical school curriculum and found it to be on par with that of South Africa. This allowed the recently arrived Cuban healthcare workers to register with the HPCSA within days instead of months.
“Not all foreign-trained doctors have to write the board exam,” said Deputy Health Minister Mathume Joseph Phaahla in a 28 April briefing. He went on to explain that graduates of international universities who have been similarly assessed by the HPCSA do not need to take the board exams in order to register with the body.
In fact, a 2018 national health department policy stipulates that a list of these universities should be updated and published annually.
Yet, no trace of such a list exists. The HPCSA did not answer repeated requests from Bhekisisa as to why.
Other international medical school graduates could get streamlined registration in South Africa too … if the HPCSA were to release a long-anticipated list of qualifying universities
In a 2019 presentation, the ministerial appointee to the HPCSA, Tahir Pillay, suggested the body used a three-track system to streamline applications from foreign-trained doctors based on – for instance – proof of their institution’s national or international accreditation and how many years they studied.
It is unclear whether the HPCSA considered this proposal.
But, as of 2019, a lack of clarity on which medical schools qualified for streamlined registration, allowed dubious foreign recruiting agencies to mislead students into thinking they would be guaranteed registration, Pillay warned in his presentation.
Currently, the HPCSA evaluates foreign medical school curricula on an applicant-by-applicant basis, says HPCSA spokesperson Priscilla Sekhonyana. Those who do not meet South African standards are then required to take the HPCSA board exam.
Ordinarily, the HPCSA offers board exams twice a year. But as long as universities remain closed, these exams are likely to remain on hold. As of late April, 120 people who had taken the last HPCSA board exam in January were still awaiting their results, but Sekhonyana says these results have now been released.
The delay, she says, was in part because the Medical and Dental Professional Board, which approves results, was unable to meet during the lockdown.
Although the HPCSA reported a backlog in processing board exams from foreign-trained applicants in its 2019 annual report, Sekhonyana says no such backlogs exist today – partly because the HPCSA moved to allow part of the exam to be written online.
Meanwhile, foreign trained doctors such as Hoosein Alvi, who asked not to use his real name, remain desperate to start work.
“A lot of the doctors even … said, look, we are even willing to volunteer our services and that’s gone to deaf ears too.”

29 South African artists repatriated from Turkey

In a statement released on Saturday, the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation announced the repatriation of 29 musicians and artists who were stranded in Turkey.

According to the statement, “the group was meant to fly home, when flights were grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“These artists are said to be from disadvantaged backgrounds and were unable to afford the airfare on a Turkish Air flight that was flying to South Africa on 22 May 2020,” it goes on to say.

The artists were part of a group of 93 South Africans granted approval to board a flight to South Africa arranged by the Turkish Government to airlift its Nationals stranded here and in neighbouring countries. “They arrived last night and were taken to a government facility for mandatory quarantine.”

Transformation in Transportation through IoT

How far have you imagined the development of technologies? Have you ever thought of automatic driving car in your childhood?
Few sci-fi movies might have created some imaginations, but who had thought IoT and AI would make it possible.
The holistic development of technology has changed the outlook of every sector. Healthcare, houses, towns are among things which are becoming smart along with the human race. The transportation sector is also benefiting from these changes to brush itself as more modernized and smart.
The transportation sector is evolving every day and thanks to IoT service providing companies which are inducing smartness to this industry.
The transportation sector has been offering safer, faster, cleaner and comfortable drives, and now IoT has taken the responsibility to make it smart.
As per the survey, global smart technology would touch $262 billion by 2025, and this would not be just financial success for manufacturers but would add a realistic approach to the expectations of users.
Don’t believe it? Read the blog to know how IoT would transform the transportation sector in years.

Coronavirus | States to clear operation of international flights

Stranded passengers told to register with Indian missions, download Aarogya Setu App
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has issued a Standard Operating Protocol (SOP) for private aircraft and charter operations on international sectors in view of COVID-19 pandemic. However, the flights would be allowed subject to the clearance from the respective State/Union Territory Governments.
The new guidelines follow the instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs permitting private aircrafts and international charter operations to bring back many Indians who had travelled to different countries before the lockdown on various purposes – employment, tourism, business studies etc – and were stranded there.
Going by the SOP, passengers intending to undertake travel should register with the respective foreign missions giving all details prescribed by the Ministry of External Affairs. The cost of travel would be borne by the travellers or their employers/hiring firms or any other entity.
Asymptomatic only
Only asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel after they sign an undertaking that after landing in India, they would undergo COVID-l9 related protocols/guidelines issued by the Government of India (Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and the Ministry of External Affairs) and the State/UT Government concerned.
All passengers would be advised to download Aarogya Setu app on their mobile devices. They would also have to sign an undertaking in the format prescribed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare furnishing information on their health status, countries/places visited in the last 28 days, place of stay in India and other contact details.
Other instructions on board were that the flight crew members should wear masks while in the cockpit/crew rest area and change their masks at regular intervals in case of long and ultra-long-haul flights. There would be no sale of any item on board in order to minimise interaction of the crew with passengers.
No entertainment
There would be no newspapers/magazines or other non-essential loose items to be carried on board. In-flight entertainment would be switched off to minimise touch on aircraft surfaces. Also, there would be no or minimum catering (pre-packed cold meals/snacks – depending on the duration of flight).
Emergency protocol
In case of an ill passenger or a passenger showing COVID-I9 symptoms such as fatigue cough, high fever etc., the passenger would be isolated from the others and a dedicated crew in complete protective gear be assigned to handle the case. A specific area of the aircraft would have to be reserved as a quarantine area for handling possible in-flight emergencies.
Asked if any request was received from any airline, a senior official in the Tamil Nadu government said no such request was received till late on Wednesday. Experts would be consulted before taking a decision on allowing international flights, the official said.

Zambia probes Chinese clothes factory murders

Police in Zambia have arrested three people suspected of murdering three Chinese nationals, dragging the bodies into a factory and setting it alight.
Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo has promised a full investigation into Sunday’s “barbaric” crime.
It took place at the Chinese-owned Blue Star clothing factory.
The attack comes amid a controversial crackdown in the capital, Lusaka, on Chinese businesses accused of discriminating against Zambians.
There has also been tension over reports that Chinese factory managers have been forcing employees to sleep at work to stop the spread of coronavirus, the BBC’s Kennedy Gondwe reports from Lusaka.
Zambia has reported 920 cases of Covid-19.
The Chinese embassy in Zambia said the killings were “appalling and vicious acts of violence”.
Police say the motive for the attack, which took place in the Makeni suburb of the capital, is unclear.
One of those arrested had fled to the city of Ndola some 310km (192 miles) north of Lusaka, police spokesperson Esther Katongo told the state-run ZNBC broadcaster.
Impromptu raids on factories
For the last few weeks, Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa has been leading an operation to close Chinese-owned businesses, including barber shops and restaurants, after locals complained about discrimination.
He has also been sharing posts on Facebook, including videos, of his impromptu raids on Chinese-owned factories where workers are allegedly being mistreated.
In one video, he confronts Chinese managers at a truck assembly plant about their policy of detaining workers and orders them to allow the Zambian workers to go home.
Mr Sampa, who is a ruling party member, has not commented on the killings.
He has clashed with the government over his operation against Chinese firms.
However, the mayor has accused his colleagues of not taking seriously the reports of discrimination against Zambians, our reporter says.
‘This is anarchy’
According to China’s state-run Global Times news site, Sunday’s attack was likely to have been prompted by Zambians who misunderstood the good intentions of some Chinese firms that have recently been prohibiting employees from going home after their shifts in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“This is interpreted by locals as an invasion of freedom,” the Global Times quoted a Chinese person living in Zambia as saying.
Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji has sought to reassure foreign investors that they are welcome in the southern African nation.
“This is something regrettable… this is anarchy and this government will not tolerate anarchy,” he said on Tuesday.

What South Africans leaving the country for essential travel should know

South Africans who are considering to travel to countries of work or study will need to show the relevant documents before it is approved.
This follows Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s announcement over the weekend that South Africans who work and study abroad can return to the countries where they are based from June 1, 2020.
Motsoaledi, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and the National Coronavirus Command Council, approved essential travel for South Africans who want to return to countries where they are based. Home Affairs said South Africans can only depart for work, study, family reunion, take up permanent residency or receive medical attention. No leisure travel will be permitted.
Advocate Bongani Bongo from the Home Affairs Committee shed some light on the procedure on the Breakfast with Refilwe Moloto show on Cape Talk. Bongo said that when the coronavirus pandemic started to surface around the world, the department received many calls from South Africans living abroad who wanted to return home.
“A lot of these South Africans living abroad came back home, but due to the difficulty to travel outside our borders, they had to remain in South Africa. They now have the opportunity to go back to their country of work, study or join their families abroad or receive medical treatment,” he said on the show.
He said Home Affairs will facilitate the process. He said South Africans needs to produce proof that the country they are travelling to have opened its borders. This also applies to connecting flights to other countries.
He explained: “If you want to go to London via Qatar, you must produce something that says that you will land in Qatar on your way to London. The traveller will have to produce all these documents before the permission is granted for them to go.”
The department said those wishing to return to the countries where they reside should have the following:
(a) A copy of their valid South African passport
(b) A letter confirming their admissibility under the current circumstances from the embassy or other diplomatic/consular representative of the country they want to travel to. If returning by road or connecting via flights, the proof submitted needs to include permission from each transiting country.
(c) Proof of means of travel such as air or bus tickets and the intended date of departure.
“South Africans who fall in these categories and satisfy the criteria can send an email to”
The department said an email would be sent to travellers who meet the criteria to enable them to proceed with their travel arrangements.
People applying as a group can send one email with the supporting documents for each member of the group.