Archive from July, 2020

Surging cost of UK visa appointments in wake of coronavirus leaving families without legal documentation

Exclusive: Family of five forced to pay £440 to submit biometrics for their application after the only available appointments, which are normally free
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People living in the UK legally are being left without proof of their immigration status because of soaring charges for visa appointments during the pandemic, lawyers have warned.
Refugees and authorised migrants have been deprived of access to public services because they have been unable to afford appointments to obtain the required documentation since visa centres started reopening last month.
Others have spent thousands of pounds on appointments being offered at a higher than usual cost, out of fear that any delay in submitting their biometrics will put their application in jeopardy.
UK visa centres are run by private firm Sopra Steria, after the company took on a Home Office contract last year. While applicants could previously go to their local post office to provide biometric data such as fingerprints free of charge, they now attend one of six “core centres” across the country which offer a free service, or another 51 which usually charge a fee starting from £69.99.
All visa application centres within the UK closed in late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Sopra Steria announced at the end of May that a phased reopening of visa centres was to begin on 1 June, though it said the service was operating at a “lower capacity than usual”, with fewer service points open across the country.
While the centres have been closed, many visa applicants – including refugees who are required to apply for leave to remain after being in the UK for five years – have been unable to proceed with their applications, leaving them in a “state of limbo” and in some cases unable to access state support, according to lawyers.
Since visa centres have started to reopen, immigration solicitors say they have struggled to find free appointments at the six core centres on Sopra Steria’s online booking system, while the paid-for options are charging considerably more than normal.
In one case, a Japanese man had to pay £440 to submit his wife and children’s biometrics for their application for indefinite leave to remain, as the only appointments they could find at the Croydon centre – one of the “core” facilities – were £110 each.
Immigration adviser Anton Koval, from the Legal Centre, who has been aiding the family, said: “They had already paid a few thousand pounds for the immigration fees for five people. They didn’t want to wait long as the time they had to submit the biometrics was running out. It’s totally unfair. It’s profiteering.”
In another case, a family of seven who arrived in the UK in February 2020 on a family reunion visa, to join their refugee father, had to travel from Liverpool to Birmingham in early July in order to attend a free appointment, because it was the only one available and they couldn’t afford to pay the £770 – £110 each – for a slot more locally. A charity paid for their train fare and provided face masks for the journey.
Judith Carter, lecturer and in-house solicitor at the University of Liverpool Law Clinic, who is representing the family, said it took her 10 days to find a free appointment for the clients, and that in order to do so she had to log onto Sopra Steria’s booking website at 1am.
She said: “This family has had to wait an additional four months to submit their biometrics because of lockdown, and then they had the cost of travel to Birmingham, plus the cost to the local council supporting them and the charity supporting them. It’s not just the cost, it’s also forcing a large family to wander about on public transport during a pandemic. It’s needless.
“Sopra Steria is prioritising the paid appointments over the free appointments. Profit is prioritised over people who the UK has an international obligation to support and welcome.”
David Pountney, senior solicitor at Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU), said he had been logging onto the booking website late at night and early in the morning in a bid to find free appointments since visa centres started to reopen, but had only managed to find one.
He said most of his clients couldn’t afford to pay for appointments, leaving them “stuck in limbo” for a prolonged period, and in some cases without access to any public services and at risk of destitution.
“Some of them who had no status before are still stuck with no right to access anything. The decision has usually been made and they’re just waiting for the fingerprints to issue the card to prove it. They could’ve had recourse to public funds months ago, and during this time in particular it’s really needed,” he added.

The limited number of free appointments available are almost one month in advance (
Sonia Lenegan, legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA), said the organisation had been raising the fact that people were unable to access free appointments to register their biometrics with the Home Office “for weeks now”, but that nothing had changed.
She added: “It was entirely foreseeable that once the centres opened up again that there would be a backlog of people who needed these appointments, and availability was a problem even before the pandemic.”
A Sopra Steria spokesperson said: “We recognise it has been a difficult time for people unable to access appointments because of the global pandemic.”
They said the company had made “significant progress” in reducing the number of customers waiting for an appointment and that, under direction from the Home Office, it was working to release as many new appointments as possible while considering the safety of customers and staff.
The spokesperson added: “During this time, we have continued to make more than half of our appointments at core sites available for free, between 9am-7pm Monday to Friday. As expected, there has been unprecedented demand for these free appointments and customers with urgent or exceptional cases can contact UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) using the Coronavirus Immigration Team helpline.”
Home Office facing investigation for breach of law over outsourced visa service deluged with complaints
They said that in order to reduce the number of people needing to attend a service point and minimise waiting times for appointments, the company was looking to introduce a new process which will facilitate the Home Office reusing previously supplied biometrics for some customers, adding: “We look forward to providing more information on this very soon.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to providing a world class service and visa applicants still have the option to book a free appointment at six core centres across the UK including London, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester.”
They said other UK visa centres were reopening “as soon as they can, in line with public health guidance, to provide more appointments for visa applicants”.

‘This is tantamount to high treason': home affairs official fired for selling visas

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi addressed parliament on Wednesday.

The home affairs department has revoked more than 100 visas that an official based in Windhoek fraudulently issued to Pakistan and Bangladesh citizens.
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi, addressing parliament during the tabling of his department’s budget vote for 2020/2021 in the National Assembly on Wednesday, announced that the secretary of civic services based in Windhoek, Namibia, had recently been fired after he was bust selling visas to non-qualifying people in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
“The scheme was so simple for them that fraudsters did not even need to travel to Namibia to get the documents. They just couriered to them and they were delivered on a silver platter,” said Motsoaledi.
“This official has not only been fired. We’ve handed over the files to the Hawks to pursue prosecution for fraud and corruption. The department has revoked 100 visas obtained in this manner.
“I can’t claim in front of the house that these are all the visas that are fraudulent because we do not know, hence we are busy auditing all the visas issued by this official since she’s been deployed in our mission in Namibia in October 2018.”
Motsoaledi also complained that labour unions representing employees of his department appeared not to be keen to help him eliminate corruption in the notorious department, citing the manner in which they handled the matter of the axed Windhoek official.
What this lady was doing is tantamount to high treason, selling the sovereignty of the country to the highest bidder.
“I’m elevating this matter because I wish to take this opportunity to talk to our unions. We accept and understand that unions have an obligation to defend their members, but the manner in which the union to which this lady belonged tried to stifle our [disciplinary] processes leave a lot to be desired,” he said.
“I don’t believe that union membership is bigger than patriotism. What this lady was doing is tantamount to high treason, selling the sovereignty of the country to the highest bidder. The police have arrested several other officials for fraudulent activities in the department of home affairs.”
Motsoaledi also announced that his department was extending all permits and visas that were due to expire during the lockdown from the end of July to October 31.
He then turned to amendments to the Electoral Act ordered by the Constitutional Court to allow independent candidates to contest national and municipal elections.
He said it was not true that the governing ANC was determined to frustrate the process with the intention of delaying the implementation of the amendments ahead of the next general election in 2024.
“There are rumours swirling around that some parties in parliament are very reluctant or not willing to make these amendments or at least to make it in time for the next election,” he said.
“I wish to reassure the nation that this is not the case. As far as the party I represent is concerned … the ruling party is committed to make the necessary arrangements for the Constitutional Court ruling to be honoured.”

High court rebukes Cape Town refugee centre

DRC asylum seeker not given adequate reasons for refusal of application: judge

The high court has ordered home affairs’ refugee centre in Cape Town to reconsider an asylum application by a Congolese woman who was accused of lying about her age.
The Western Cape High Court has ordered the home affairs department’s refugee centre in Cape Town to reconsider an asylum application by a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) national who was accused of lying about her age when she fled to South Africa.
“The Constitutional Court has stated that asylum seekers are entitled to administrative action that is lawful, reasonable and administratively fair. And seekers are entitled to adequate reasons. In this case, the Refugee Determination Officer failed to measure up to this. The reasons are neither intelligible nor informative,” Western Cape High Court judge Patrick Gamble said in his ruling this week, as reported by GroundUp.
The matter before him was that of “LM”, who fled the DRC with her aunt in 2007 when she was about 12 years old. She settled in the Western Cape and attended school there.
She was refused asylum in 2014 and in 2016 was threatened with deportation because, officials said, “she does not know her own country” and had given contradictory versions of her date of birth when she arrived in South Africa.
LM, in her affidavit, said she had “some recollections of living with her mother in the midst of a brutal civil war”.
“Rebels began burning houses and when I was 12, I recall my mother handing me over to my aunty, who took me and her own child to South Africa. It was a long journey.”

She said she recalled going to the Refugee Reception Office in Cape Town in 2007 with her aunt when she was 12. She was granted a temporary refugee permit.
But according to the document she was born in 1987, not September 1994. And when she applied again in 2014 her asylum was refused, and in 2016 she was threatened with deportation, on the basis of discrepancies in her birth date and of apparent contradictions in what she said about the DRC.
LM said she had only realised that certain details on the form, including her date of birth, were incorrect when she applied later for another permit and when her English had improved.
“I was scared. I could not understand English. They took my fingerprints. I had no idea what was being said,” she said in her affidavit.
Gamble said it appeared as though LM’s date of birth had been overwritten by a marker pen to reflect the date as September 1987, not September 1994. “It is impossible to detect if it was changed,” he said. But the form was clearly filled out by different people, presumably the official and then a French speaker, the aunt, who was used as an interpreter, he said.
Regarding the state’s conduct in the litigation, Gamble said there had been no meaningful engagement.
“The response is largely made up of rote allegations, a repetition of meaningless mantra. They gave no substantive reasons to refuse to grant her asylum and dismissed the current turmoil and internal unrest [in the DRC] as lacking any relevance.”
Instead, her application was deemed to be “manifestly unfounded”.
“International authorities all appear to adhere to the principle that such a finding can only apply to the clearest of cases, to weed out fraudulent or bogus claims,” said Gamble.
“She was at least entitled to know what aspects of her case were untrue and which were attributable to possible misunderstanding, given her age when the first form was completed and the complications arising from language and interpretation.”
Gamble reviewed the decisions to refuse her asylum and set aside authorisation for her deportation. He specifically ruled that the same official must not be involved in the reconsideration of her application.

Four people born outside SA to South African parents granted citizenship

The Constitutional Court said two subsections of the South African Citizenship Amendment Act could be read so that those born to a South African parent, in or outside SA, could acquire South African citizenship.

The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ordered the department of home affairs to register the births of four people that it declared were South African citizens, and that they be issued with IDs.
However, the court refused to confirm orders of the high court in Pretoria, which had declared that two subsections of the South African Citizenship Amendment Act of 2010 were constitutionally invalid.
The Constitutional Court reasoned that the 2010 act could be read in a constitutionally compliant manner so that those born to a South African parent, in or outside SA, acquire or retain South African citizenship.
Five people who were born in various countries in Africa from 1969 to 2006 brought an application before the high court in 2016 in which they sought an order that they be declared South African citizens.
The department had failed to recognise their citizenship but did not provide adequate reasons for this denial.
The five each provided evidence before the high court that one of their parents was a South African citizen at the time of their birth. The high court accepted the applicants’ submissions, with the exception of those of one applicant.
Apart from an application to be declared South African citizens, the five also sought an order declaring two sections of the 2010 Amendment Act to be unconstitutional.
The department failed to respond to the application, resulting in the matter being set for hearing in May last year on an unopposed roll.
The court granted four of the five people the relief they sought; that they be declared South African citizens, that the department register their births, enter their details into the population register, assign them South African identity numbers and issue them South African identity documents and/or identity cards as well as birth certificates.
In addition to this, the high court declared the two sections unconstitutional.
According to the constitution, the Constitutional Court must confirm any order of invalidity made by the high court, before that order has any force.
In a unanimous judgment written by justice Sisi Khampepe, the court said the high court provided sparse reasons for its findings of constitutional invalidity.
“This seems to have been a consequence of the (minister of home affairs and the home affairs department’s) dereliction of their responsibility during the proceedings in the high court.
“Regardless, it is still incumbent on a court, operating within our constitutional dispensation, which embeds the separation of powers principle, to provide full reasons before declaring legislation to be invalid,” Khampepe said.
Khampepe said this was unfortunate and hoped that failure to provide reasons when legislation was declared invalid did not become a regular practice by lower courts. She said an interpretation of the 2010 act that only operates in favour of those born after its commencement is the one which is at variance with the constitution.
“It is this narrow, prospective-only interpretation that strips citizenship rights from a great number of people in the most unfair and unjustified manner.
“It is that interpretation which would render the operation of the 2010 amendment retrospective by wiping out citizenship that existed under the previous acts without replacing it with another form of citizenship, and by taking away citizenship rights without retaining those previously-acquired rights,” Khampepe said.
Khampepe ordered the department to pay the costs of the four.

#LoveIsNotTourism: Heartbreak of binational couple separated during SA lockdown

Love follows its own script at the best of times, but the Covid-19 pandemic has added unexpected, devastating twists. As it is, life and love under any level of lockdown pose many challenges to a relationship.
With the gradual lifting of restrictions in South Africa, the transitioning has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, especially in a country where some regulations seem perplexing and contradictory. While those infected by the coronavirus and who have lost their lives or are at risk during the pandemic are foremost in our minds, spare a thought, too, for binational families and couples who have been separated by the pandemic. A life put on hold is in many repects tantamount to a life unlived.
Being rendered “homeless” and forced to live a life in limbo has led to the #LoveIsNotTourism global movement and spawned #LoveIsNotTourism SA. Especially now that tourism is picking up again, they decree “love is an essential need” and “a life without love is, in many ways, a life devoid of meaning”. Only the heartless will disagree.
The Danish, Austrian and Norwegian governments, among others, have seen the light. Starting on July 15, it has allowed cross-border couples separated during the pandemic to reunite. People from outside the EU will be able to travel to Norway if they can prove they are in a real romantic relationship with someone who lives in Norway.
According to the Norwegian government, a relationship is defined by two metrics: the couple must have been together for at least nine months and they must have met in person at least once.
Canadian Laura McMahon, 34, and her partner are among the families and lovers around the world who have been patiently waiting to be reconciled with their loved ones in South Africa. For Laura, it has has been an agonising four months, with no definite end in sight when she will be reunited again with the love of her life, South Africa-born and raised Jesse Jeffrey, 32, a general manager and student at a business school.
A healthworker who is busy with her Master’s degree, Laura said: “It just so happened that I had to travel to South Africa in order to find him. After dating for some time, we found ourselves planning a life together in South Africa.
“Unfortunately, whilst on a trip to Canada to obtain a certificate of non-impediment to marry in South Africa, those plans were upended. After a 38-hour journey, I landed to the devastating news of South Africa’s border closure.
“To our dismay, it has been four long and painful months of separation. Instead of building a life together, we find ourselves on endless video calls at odd hours of the day, lamenting our situation, and feeling utterly hopeless.
“After months, some have begun to take matters into their own hands. Inspired by the #LoveIsNotTourism movement, the group #LoveIsNotTourism SA was born. We are a group of all ages, creed, and race, who have come together with one common narrative – heartbreak.
“While we contribute to the South African economy through regular long-stay visits, we are not yet South African citizens. For now, we are lumped into the category of tourists.
“We implore the government to hear our call: Love is not tourism, it is an essential human need. With no pandemic end in sight, we feel it is time for families, married and unmarried couples to be reunited once again.
“We call on the government to stand up for love, for the compassionate and inclusive South Africa they are trying to create. For a future that believes in goodness, equality.”
Laura told IOL on Monday the SA government “has just begun allowing submissions of appeal for married couples, but so far there isn’t a provision for non-married couples partners”.
“I have just now submitted a 37-page document confirming the veracity of our relationship and our cohabitation together. In addition to the lacking provision for non-married couples, the complicating factor is that visas must be submitted along with appeals.
“Most of us no longer have a visa. Many of us have entered visa-free and had a series of long-stay visits. This hasn’t been a problem in the past. We need to be allowed to either apply for visas or enter visa-free. The SA High Commission in Canada is closed so there is no way to apply for visas.”
While saving lives is obviously paramount, love cannot be ignored or neglected; Laura feels the government must include the “love sick” in its plans.
“We do understand that the SA government has been dealing with a lot, and we haven’t felt like ours was a priority compared to some of the other issues. However, after four months and no foreseeable end to the pandemic, we feel they must start looking at creative solutions to these sorts of problems.
“Our lives have been devastated because of this and will continue to be until we are able to be reunited in South Africa. We feel we can, and should, be allowed to travel before the government considers opening up tourism since the activities we wish to do are low risk.
“We want to comply with all the safety rules and are happy to quarantine since we are coming for long stays anyway. We appreciate all the government has done to listen to feedback and modify regulations where possible, and hope our case will be given equal thought and care.
“Our story is just one of many similar tales of heartbreak and frustration on the website #LoveIsNotTourism. As a group, we feel that our essential need to reunite with our loved ones has been neglected. While we don’t believe this oversight is intentional, we do feel it is one which demands the immediate attention of government officials.
“During such a trying time, we all need support. We do not wish to return to South Africa to sightsee; in fact, we don’t believe it is time for sightseeing just yet.
“We simply wish to be reunited with our loved ones to support one another during this global crisis. We have created a petition, which is garnering more and more signatures every day.”
It’s not only love that has bound Laura to South Africa, the country has captured her heart as well. With no wordly possessions in Canada, South Africa has become her home.
“From the time I met my partner, we were family. We shared a love of nature, activity, animals and food. We bonded over a common world view, even though we came from very different backgrounds.
“We became intimately immersed in both the best, and the worst, of our two cultures. Through our unlikely union, we learned and grew as individuals. We marvelled over the series of events which had to unfold, just as they did, in order for us to find one another. We felt very lucky, and we were happy.
“As our relationship blossomed, settling into a life in South Africa was natural: I had the flexibility, he did not. My partner has strong ties to South Africa, through both his work as a general manager and his studies at business school. For us, building a life in South Africa made sense. I grew to love the country, and the people. Over time, my life became more and more entangled with South Africa.
“Beyond the very obvious emotional, spiritual and psychological effects that come with being stuck here, there are a plethora of logistical implications. Today I am effectively homeless. I have no worldly possessions in Canada, save for the small suitcase I came with in March.
“The ambiguity over when I will be able to return to South Africa has created a life of limbo for both my partner and me. I hesitate to re-establish my life here, when the borders could reopen the next day.
“Meanwhile, in South Africa our lease is coming to an end. Does my partner rent a smaller, more affordable place, for one? Or, does he assume I will be home soon, and rent a larger, less affordable place for two? These are the kinds of nagging questions that we are consumed with. Each day I desperately comb through the news, looking for answers, for signs that I might see the man I love again.
“As I mentioned, internet calling has allowed us to see, and talk to one another during this joyless time, but it is no substitute for the support a simple hug can communicate. A relationship based on video calls alone is untenable. We carry on because we know our love is irreplaceable.
“In the wise words of the Dalai Lama, ‘Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive’.”
There are no definite dates yet when international travel can start under level 1 of the lockdown, with the beginning of 2021 being a worst-case scenario, but South Africa’s tourism sector is lobbying for it to be as soon as September.
Hopefully, love and common sense will triumph.

Saving southern Africa’s oldest language

Language and identity are inextricably interlinked. So what happens when a language dies, or is suppressed?
When Katrina Esau spoke to her older sister, Griet Seekoei, they spoke in N|uu. It is a language that only they – and their brother, Simon Sauls – could understand. “Griet was a wonderful person,” Esau recalls. “Strict, but wonderful.”
Ouma Griet, as she was known, died in May aged 87. Now there are just two remaining speakers of N|uu. “It makes me very sad. No language is more important than another language,” Esau told the Mail & Guardian, speaking from her home in Upington in South Africa’s Northern Cape province.
!Honkia. Gla kye !aba? (N|uu for Hello. How are you?)
The decline of N|uu dates all the way back to 1652, when the first Europeans arrived by ship at the Cape of Good Hope. They spoke only Dutch, and made little effort to assimilate with the thriving, complex Khoikhoi and San communities who were already living in the area. Instead, it was the locals – who themselves spoke a variety of tongues, including N|uu and Khoekhoegowab – who initiated communication.
Autshumato, the chief of the Goringhaicona, taught himself Dutch and worked as a translator between the white people and the indigenous community; his niece, Krotoa, became Jan van Riebeeck’s personal translator. Between them they lay the foundations for a new language, Afrikaans, based on Dutch but borrowing heavily from indigenous words and grammar.
Over the centuries, this language – along with English, another import – became a tool of oppression against South Africa’s Khoikhoi and San communities. Indigenous languages were marginalised, their speakers discriminated against, while Afrikaans was enforced as the language of education, government and work.
Esau herself has spoken previously about her upbringing on a white-owned farm in the Northern Cape. Although N|uu was the language she spoke at home with her parents, the farmer threatened to shoot them if they were caught speaking it in public. Slowly, the language disappeared from Esau’s everyday life. Afrikaans dominated.
Even when South Africa threw off white rule in 1994, little changed. The new South Africa recognises 11 official languages, but N|uu is not among them. Nor is Khoekhoegowab, which although still endangered is much more widely spoken. This omission is painful, said Esau.
Esau runs a small school from her home in Upington to teach N|uu to younger generations. For her efforts in keeping the language alive, she was awarded the Order of the Baobab by former president Jacob Zuma in 2014. “We will lose knowledge if the language dies out. That is why I teach N|uu to children in the area,” she said.
Kakapusa (Khoekhoegowab for Erasure)
N|uu is not dead yet, and the younger generation won’t let it die without a fight. Claudia du Plessis is Esau’s granddaughter. She is learning to speak the language. “I did not hear it [growing up]. The whites told my grandmother not to speak N|uu because it was an ‘ugly language.’
“My grandmother speaks it with me, and I’m reading books about it. I can write it well, but the language is very difficult to speak. But when you get it right, then you get it right.”
Along with Deidre Jantjies and Nadine Cloete, Du Plessis is making a film about the N|uu-speaking community’s practices around menstruation, showing how the taboos that exist today around a woman’s body were never part of indigenous culture. This is an example of the kind of knowledge that could die out along with a language.
Katrina Esau is a consultant on the film, to make sure the actors get the words and pronunciation right. She is not a stickler, encouraging them to “introduce our own flavour”, especially when it comes to writing: “The writing was invented by the colonists. Ouma [Katrina] said to write it like you understand it,” Du Plessis said.
Also fighting to keep an indigenous language alive is Toroxa Breda. When he was born, his mother called him Denver. She was Khoikhoi, but gave him a name that would help him to fit in. He grew up in Cape Town, speaking Afrikaans, and identified as “coloured” – a racial classification officially defined by the apartheid government as a person of mixed European and African ancestry. For decades, Khoikhoi and San people have been subsumed into this classification – and, all too often, erased by it.
“When you’ve grown up on the Cape Flats with this coloured identity, I wonder what does this mean, who am I connected to? What connects me to these people, to this land, to Africa? I only speak the language of my former colonisers, [so] who am I?”
Breda began to answer that question for himself. But Khoikhoi language and culture is so marginalised that it was not easy to find the information he was looking for; sometimes, he could trace his own roots only by searching for colonial slurs like “hottentot” and “bushman”.
He began to teach himself Khoekhoegowab. It is a slow but rewarding process. “It’s only when you hear the sounds of your ancestors on your tongue that you feel a sense of belonging and the sense of being an African,” he said. “Whilst my tongue was rooted in Europe, which is Afrikaans and English, I could never feel African.”
Nor could he connect this identity with his given name. “I realised I needed to decolonise the name. There was no Denver in our community. That is a coloniser name. I gave myself the name Toroxa. That means fighting spirit.”
||Hui !Gaeb (Khoekhoegowab for Veiled in Clouds)
While N|uu may be at imminent risk of extinction, there are still more than 200,000 speakers of Khoekhoegowab – mostly in southern Namibia, where it is often called Nama. Dr Levi Namaseb, a linguistics professor, has been teaching Khoekhoegowab at the University Namibia for 35 years.
It is, he says, a remarkable, unique language; the variety of clicks used as consonants in Khoekhoegowab and its dialects are not found in any other language, except when they have been borrowed (the clicks in Xhosa, for example, come from Khoekhoegowab). “It’s fascinating how far human nature can go in order to create communication,” he said.
Namaseb believes that human dignity and language are inextricably linked. “You lose your dignity when you speak the foreigner’s language,” he said. He thinks that the government – both in South Africa and Namibia – needs to play a much more active role in protecting indigenous languages. “You need the hands of the government in order to bring down our language or bring it up.”
South Africa’s government is paying some attention. Typically, before the president delivers the annual state of the nation address, he is ushered into the National Assembly by an imbongi – a poet who sings the president’s praises, usually in Xhosa or Zulu. In 2019, Cyril Ramaphosa broke with tradition by asking the National Khoi and San Council to nominate a Khoekhoegowab-speaking imbongi. The chair of the council nominated Bradley van Sitters.
“He said put on your skins, make us proud, make the nation proud,” Van Sitters recalls. And so he did. On the night, ancient Khoikhoi prayers echoed off the walls of the Parliament building in Cape Town, and Van Sitter sreceived a standing ovation.
Van Sitters grew up in Cape Town, speaking Afrikaans. But as he learnt more about his roots, he felt increasingly alienated by his mother tongue. “When I go to the Cape Flats and ask the community, ‘What language do you speak?’, they say they speak Afrikaans. So I ask them: Do you call yourself an Afrikaner? They say no, we are not Afrikaners. There’s something interesting in that. We are speaking the language, but there is a complete dissociation from the identity attached to it.”
He resolved to find his own identity by learning Khoekhoegowab. He traveled to Namibia, where the language was taught at university – Dr Namaseb was his teacher – and then focused his own research and energies on keeping the language alive. In Cape Town, he set up classes, and encouraged everyone he knew to call the city by its Khoikhoi name: ||Hui !Gaeb, meaning ‘veiled in clouds’.
When he spoke to his mother about it, she said that she remembered her grandmother speaking Khoikhoi, with other elders, under a tree, but that the younger generations never learned. This was the first he had heard about the Khoikhoi roots of his own family. By rediscovering his language, Van Sitters was rediscovering his identity.
“The genius of people, their secrets, their oral traditions, are all intermingled into the nature of the language. There are so many layers within the language itself. It’s intergenerational truth that is being passed on, through the medium of language. We’ve lost that connection, having gone through slavery, oppression. Language was my means to make that connection again,” he said.

Why now is the best time for South Africans to apply for Portugal’s Golden visa

It’s clear that people are flocking to this sunny, Mediterranean country. Here’s why so many South Africans are turning to Portugal for residency and retirement.

Portugal’s Golden Visa is renowned as one of the most popular investment migration solutions for South Africans. Recent figures showed that residence investments have tripled in May 2020 compared to the previous year.
A bit about Portugal’s Golden Visa Programme
The Golden Visa, or Golden Residence Permit Programme (GRPP) is a residency-by-investment programme that affords you residency rights in Portugal. With this visa, you and your family can live and work in Portugal and enjoy visa-free travel to many countries.
Golden Visa residency requirements are undemanding. You’re not required to move to Portugal once your visa has been granted. To meet the minimum residency requirement, you only need to spend seven days in the country per year. This makes this programme a sound offshore investment, which can secure your family’s future with minimum hassle.
After holding a Golden Visa for five years, you and your family could be eligible to apply for Portuguese citizenship and gain one of the world’s most powerful passports.
Why Portugal is attracting three times the investment in 2020
In the 2020 State Budget it was announced that there were to be changes to the Golden Visa Programme that some felt would reduce overall applications. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the government’s planned changes were halted indefinitely.
The Portuguese Association of Real Estate Promoters and Investors (APPII) has also now presented the “Programme to Relaunch”, which aims to attract foreign investment into the real estate sector and encourage economic recovery.
South Africans exploring options in Portugal
South Africans are one of the top five nationalities applying for and being approved for the Golden Visa. With a sensational climate, affordable cost of living and healthcare as well as great education facilities, it’s no wonder Portugal remains a top residency-by-investment (RBI) option for many South Africans looking for a “plan b”.
Portugal is a mere two hour flight from the UK, which has made it an increasingly popular holiday destination among British citizens. Portugal has also confirmed that British tourists will not need a visa even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Moving to Portugal will remain an incredibly attractive proposition for British citizens deal or no deal, which also means a bustling tourism industry long into the future.
South Africans should consider making their investment into high value houses in Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon. There is a large abundance of tourists which means English is widely spoken, making the city and all its culture easier to explore and, better yet, enjoy. Alternatively, you can choose between the coastal city of Porto with its picturesque Old Town on the Douro River or the hub of the port wine industry, Vila Nova de Gaia. Portugal is made up of historical cities, renowned cuisine and spectacular beaches, no matter where you choose to reside.
Benefits of Portuguese citizenship
Many people from across the world look to Portugal as the ideal destination for international migration as well as an excellent place to settle for retirement. Sought-after lifestyle and business locations include Cascais, Lisbon, Oporto, and Algarve.
A secure lifestyle
Portugal was recently ranked as the third safest country to live in in the world according to the Global Peace Index. This will no doubt speak to many South Africans concerned about the high level of crime in their home country.
Dependants also benefit
Portugal’s policy on dependants included on the Golden Visa is generous. It includes dependants over the age of 18 (who are enrolled in full-time education) as well as parents over the age of 66 if they are financially dependent on the primary applicant of the visa. Your dependants will receive the same rights as the primary visa holder and also may be eligible for both permanent residence and citizenship after five years on the Golden Visa.
Visa-free travel
Travelling in and around Europe is easy when you have a Golden Visa in hand. If you have ambitions of working within the EU, this is especially beneficial. If you are a Portuguese citizen, you also gain the right to live and work throughout the EU area.
Earn a passive income
Portugal being a popular holiday destination means demand for short-term accommodation. This opens the door to potentially earning a passive income from short-term leases during the holiday season if you are a property owner.
Pensioners fiscal benefits
Portugal is a prime destination for foreign retirees and, according to the Global retirement Index 2020, Portugal is on the top 10 list of best countries to retire to. This is largely due to the fiscal regime that’s integrated into the Non-Habitual Residency (NHR) status with the level of taxation on pension income remaining relatively low at 10%.
Tax benefits
Portugal has one of the most favourable tax regimes in the EU whether you’re a resident or citizen. If you are not a tax resident in Portugal (spend less than 183 days a year in the country), you are exempt from close to all foreign-sourced income tax. There’s also no tax on inheritance or gifts as well as no wealth tax.
South Africa’s leading Golden Visa experts
We’re the leading provider for assisting South Africans and their families in entering Portugal’s Golden Visa Programme. We’ve developed relationships with key players in Portugal because we know how important it is to have people on the ground who you can trust. Our consultants will ensure you choose the best investment solution for you.
We can assist with opening bank accounts, tax advice, fiscal applications, property selection management and your applications for Portuguese citizenship.
If you’d like to speak to a consultant about the Golden Visa programme in more detail please contact us on