Archive from November, 2020

Zim, SA home affairs ministers tackle border congestion ahead of Dec 1 re-opening

Officials fear widespread chaos when smaller vehicles start arriving at the border
BULAWAYO – Home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe met with his South African counterpart Aaron Motsoaledi in Beitbridge on Friday ahead of the re-opening of the border to normal traffic on December 1.
The border, southern Africa’s busiest port, has been closed to visitors on both side except for cargo and returning residents since both countries imposed lockdowns in March to control the spread of Covid-19.
Ahead of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, both countries are preparing to open the border on December 1 – but immigration officials fear being overwhelmed, with virus screening measures set to extend the clearance times for both passengers and goods.
South African home affairs officials said discussions between the two men centred on resolving the current truck congestion at the border, with queues of up to 10 kilometers forming on busy days.
Officials fear widespread chaos when smaller vehicles start arriving at the border as tens of thousands of Zimbabweans return home for the holidays.
The truck congestion has been blamed on an insistence by Zimbabwean customs officials to search all haulage trucks item-by-item in a bid to tackle smuggling and increase revenue collection.
Truck drivers now spend several days in queues at the border, rendering their Covid-19 clearance certificates obtained 48-hours prior to travel – a requirement by Zimbabwe – invalid. Zimbabwe charges US$60 for a re-test on arrival

Mauritius is closed for December

Mauritius’s borders will effectively remain closed for leisure travel during the peak December- January period, following its government’s decision to extend quarantine regulations until January 15, 2021. The move is another blow to outbound agents and operators who are missing out on December holiday bookings to South Africa’s favourite island destination.
TAG’s Jonathan Gerber, told Tourism Update that South African travellers did not have an appetite to visit Mauritius while the 14-day quarantine requirement remained in place and that this meant that the island’s borders were effectively still closed to short-term leisure visitors.
Mauritius’s regulations require travellers to self-isolate in a hotel room for 14 days before they may visit the various beaches and resorts on the island. Guests are not allowed to leave their rooms and are provided with meals, hygiene and sanitary equipment, which are delivered to the doors during quarantine. The average South African leisure-based stay in Mauritius ranges from seven to 10 days.
“The quarantine regulations have made a massive difference to what we sell, as Mauritius has always been one of our top destinations,” said Gerber. “It is astounding how governments have chosen to react to this virus. While we understand that it is important for government policies in a country like Mauritius to be cautious – where self-isolation is difficult due to the dense housing conditions in its villages – it does not make sense why travellers, who are able to provide negative PCR tests proving that they do not carry the virus, must quarantine for 14 days.”
He added that while TAG’s Mauritius specialist brand, Beachtag, had not yet reopened its doors, its team had been kept busy selling packages (but with reduced numbers) to other island destinations through TAG’s Hashtag brand.
MD of World Leisure Holidays, Ramesh Jeenarain, said while the quarantine extension was not good news, it had been anticipated. He explained that the decision had most likely been made due to the surge in infection rates in Europe, which were primary source markets for Mauritius. He was hopeful that infection rates would have decreased, and that some movement with vaccination distribution would motivate an easing in quarantine regulations by January 15. “This may still allow us to salvage the last few weeks of the January school holidays,” said Jeenarain.
CEO of Thompsons Holidays, Joanne Adolphe, said it had also anticipated that quarantine restrictions would not be over any time soon. Thompsons has been promoting sales to Mauritius from June 2021 onwards and has been actively promoting beach destinations, such as Zanzibar, Seychelles, Maldives, Dubai, Madagascar, Mombasa and Mozambique, in the interim.
“We have been in close contact with our ground handler in Mauritius and have taken the stance that we don’t want to take clients’ money for short-term gain if it seems unrealistic that a trip will go ahead. We understand that the Mauritius government has implemented its quarantine regulations for the health and security of both the Mauritian nationals and our passengers and we have to trust that they are doing the right thing for their country,” said Adolphe.
Andrew Stark, MD MEA of FCTG, said Flight Centre Travel Group had been promoting Mauritius for travel during the 2021 Easter and July school holidays. Flight Centre forecasts that there will be some sort of confirmed flight schedule in and out of Mauritius, and an easing in restrictions, by that point. “One destination’s demise is another’s rise,” commented Stark, adding that Zanzibar had been lapping up Mauritian demand for December.
Carla da Silva, Air Mauritius regional manager Southern Africa and Latin America, said she remained hopeful that Mauritian borders would reopen next year

Stranded Australians may not be home for Christmas, says Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton

The Trade and Tourism Minister says extra quarantine capacity at Howard Springs means more Australians stranded overseas can return home.
Australians stranded overseas due to coronavirus restrictions and flight cancellations will struggle to get home by Christmas, a senior Federal Government minister has conceded.
There are more than 36,000 people registered to return to the country with the Department of Foreign Affiars and Travel classifying 8070 as vulnerable.
Labor is urging the Federal Government to stop pointing the finger at State-run hotel quarantine and do more to help isolate arrivals.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said the Government had brought back urgent cases where there were medical needs and people in desperate situations.
But he warned that people who had been forced to travel overseas in the past month to care for loved ones would struggle to get back for Christmas.
“If people have gone in the last month or so and expect to get back by Christmas it’s tough,” Mr Dutton told Today
“Flights have been cancelled or there is not room in hotel quarantine, so just be careful when you make the booking to go.”
Mr Morrison believes Australia is on track to reach his goal of bringing home the 26,700 people registered in September by December.
“Australia is moving everything we possibly can to get as many Australians home,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“But there are obviously understandable constraints to that because of the caps on quarantine capacity.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese argues the Commonwealth is responsible for quarantine under the constitution.
He wants air force jets to bring people home to an expanded quarantine system using federal resources to bolster capacity.
“We should be getting more people back, we should be using all the resources at our disposal,” the Labor leader told 3AW.
DFAT officials told a Senate hearing more than 426,000 people have returned since Australia’s borders were closed in March, with 30,000 on government- facilitated flights.
The Prime Minister said the hotel quarantine system had been incredibly successful, despite the virus spreading to the community in some states

Brothers born of Angolan parents have right to South African citizenship: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal by the minister of home affairs, who was ordered by the high court in Pretoria last year to grant citizenship to two brothers born in SA of foreign parents in the 1990s.
Brothers Joseph Emmanuel Jose and Jonathan Diabaka are entitled to South African citizenship even though their parents are Angolan.
This follows a ruling of the Supreme Court of Appeal on Tuesday, when it dismissed, with a punitive cost order, an application by the home affairs minister for leave to appeal against a court order that he grant citizenship to the two men, who were born in SA of foreign parents.
Joseph and Jonathan, born in SA in February 1996 and August 1997 respectively, have lived in the country their entire lives. Their parents are Angolan citizens who fled that country in 1995 and sought asylum in SA. The parents and children were granted refugee status in 1997.
This endured until January 2014 when the department informed the family that their refugee status had been withdrawn. When the status was withdrawn, Jose was 17 and Jonathan 16.
The department referred them to the Angolan embassy, where they were advised that to remain lawfully in SA, they had to apply for Angolan passports and failure to do that would result in “repatriation”.
The brothers have never been to Angola, they have no family there, know little about Angola, and neither speak any Portuguese.
When they experienced difficulties in applying for South African IDs, they approached Lawyers for Human Rights who advised them that they were eligible to apply for citizenship.
However, their efforts were not successful and they then applied to the high court in Pretoria to direct the department to grant them South African citizenship.
The court ordered the department to grant them citizenship in March last year.
Dissatisfied with this order, the minister applied for leave to appeal to the SCA.
The high court granted leave only on the question of whether it was competent for the court to order the minister to grant, as opposed to consider, the brothers’ applications for citizenship.
In the judgment passed on Wednesday, the SCA held that the brothers met the requirements for South African citizenship in terms of the Citizenship Act.
This is because they were born in SA of parents who are not South African and who have not been admitted into SA for permanent residence and that they have lived in SA from the date of birth until they became adult.
On the question of whether a court can direct the department to grant the men’s application for citizenship, the SCA said while the doctrine of the separation of powers must be considered, this did not mean that there might not be cases in which a court may need to give directions to the executive.
The SCA said given that it was clear that the men met all requirements for citizenship, it would serve no purpose to send the matter to the minister to make a fresh decision.
The SCA said a recent Constitutional Court judgment passed in July, which sets a precedent, affirmed that a court may direct the department to grant citizenship to an applicant.
The appellate court said though the precedent was set after the heads of argument -setting out the basis for the minister’s appeal – were filed, the department’s position ought to have changed.
The court said the department was obliged to reconsider its position.
For that reason, the SCA dismissed the minister’s appeal with costs on a punitive scale.

Social grants long queues spreading Covid-19, warn health officials

East London, when GroundUp visited people said they had been queuing outside the Department of Home Affairs since 5am.
People are still having to queue for hours, and sometimes all night, for social grants or documents from the Department of Home Affairs, in spite of warnings by health officials that this is contributing to the spread of Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape.
In their epidemiological report for 12 November, the Eastern Cape Health Department and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases warned that “self-defeating tendencies or practices by government departments, including long queues with no social distancing during the payment of social grants, at the Department of Home Affairs and full load taxis are all contributing to the fast spread of the virus”.
GroundUp reporters found long queues at SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) pay points and Home Affairs offices in Port Elizabeth and East London.
When GroundUp visited earlier this month, about 300 SASSA beneficiaries queued at Kenako Mall’s Post Office in Port Elizabeth with no social distance between them. It was raining and everyone took cover next to the shops. Some people were chatting with their masks under their chins, while some had no masks at all.
Joseph Ngeyana from KwaDwesi Extension said, “I left my house at 3:30am and walked here to get my R350. The nearest Post Office to me in KwaDwesi is always full. “
Lindile Tyali from Soweto-on-Sea said, “I have been in this queue since 6am. There is no food at home. People are frustrated and are more concerned about their money than keeping social distance. Almost everybody here is wet because we don’t have taxi fare to come here.”
Some people had slept outside the main entrance to the Motherwell Shopping Centre in order to collect their Covid-19 grant from the post office, braving the drizzle through the night.
Most had face masks but there was no social distancing and when the office opened people jostled each other to hand over their IDs to officials.
Anele Gaba and his brother had joined other beneficiaries to huddle around a fire made from old car tyres collected from a nearby business.
“I am concerned that many people will get infected with Covid-19 due to the exposure to the bad weather and most people did not wear masks when we were around the fire,” said Gaba.
“People are dying in Motherwell and other areas around the metro from the Covid-19 pandemic but poverty and desperation are forcing people to risk contracting the disease.The conditions are very bad and expose beneficiaries to the risk of contracting the disease and spreading it to their families and communities,” said Gaba.
Gaba, who works as a security guard, said some people were going out of Motherwell to places where queues were shorter but he and his brother did not have money for transport.
Luzuko Qina, Sassa provincial spokesperson, acknowledged the problem.
“Sassa is concerned and will continue to make efforts to minimise the spread of the virus. Beneficiaries are urged not to come to Post Offices without having received a text message calling them to collect their grants on a specified date and branch,” he said.
He said SASSA had come up with a system where people could apply for a grant, have their application approved and be paid without having to visit an office. But “on payment we were faced with numerous challenges chiefly emanating from the population we seek to serve. The majority of this targeted group does not have bank accounts nor do they have cellular phones.”
He said this had compelled Sassa to use the Post Office to pay these beneficiaries.
In East London, when GroundUp visited people said they had been queuing outside the Department of Home Affairs since 5am. There was no social distancing. Everyone had masks because entry without a mask was prohibited, but in the queue few people were wearing them. People said they couldn’t breathe properly or couldn’t talk with a mask on.
This is the only Home Affairs in East London that issues IDs.
Sizeka Ndontsa, from Mooiplaas just outside East London, said there were already people queuing when she arrived at 5am. She was there to collect her ID book which she has been waiting for since July. There were no marks on the ground and no social distancing.
“The sad thing about this Home Affairs is that their system is always down now. Instead of standing in a line we ended up sitting on the pavement. Hence you find us all sitting close to each other. We want to be closer to the door so we can hear when the staff comes out to talk to us,” she said.
She said she would only wear her mask when she went inside.
GroundUp travelled in two “amaphela” taxis which carry four people. Neither driver was wearing a mask, and not all the passengers. One driver said he only put his mask on when he saw police officers.

Human trafficking in SA continuing despite coronavirus, says Interpol

Cape Town – Human trafficking in South Africa and the rest of the continent is continuing unabated despite the coronavirus, resulting in hundreds of victims unable to get assistance, according to Interpol.
Unlike other regions in Africa where human trafficking is multidimensional, in Southern Africa, South Africa serves as the transit and destination point for human trafficking.
Despite travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock says the land route for human trafficking from the Horn of Africa to South Africa continues to show signs of worrying activity.
“Human trafficking, whether for sexual or labour exploitation, is already complex to detect in ‘normal’ times. The novel coronavirus pandemic has only pushed human trafficking deeper into the dark and its victims further from possible detection and assistance,” said Stock.
According to Mohamed Daghar, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, human trafficking routes in Africa are as complex as the trade itself.
Trafficking routes differ and are irregular depending on the type of trafficking.
“Human smuggling which is controlled by smugglers is different from human trafficking which is driven by traffickers. This is an important distinction to note especially when looking into routes used,” says Daghar.
“In some cases the routes of trafficking are the same as the routes of smuggling but not the other way round. With trafficking, routes differ and are irregular depending on the type of trafficking. However, they sometimes use smuggling routes,” said Daghar.
He said In West Africa, countries serve as a source, transit, and destination for trafficked victims.
While in the East African region, women are mostly trafficked for prostitution in the Gulf States. Kenya serves as a source, transit and destination country for trafficking of young girls and women to and from Europe.
All countries in the northern region of Africa serve as source, transit and destination countries for trade in human commodity.
It is estimated that about 9.24 million individuals are enslaved in all of Africa, making up 23% of the total global enslaved population.
According to the 2019 ENACT Organised Crime Index, human trafficking is also prevalent in Libya, Sudan, Nigeria Eritrea and DRC. It is less prevalent is Sao Tome and Principe, Mauritius, Cabo Verde, Namibia and Lesotho
Daghar says that the following smuggling and trafficking routes currently exist in Africa ;
– Eastern Route – from the Horn to Yemen and possibly onwards to Saudi Arabia.
– Southern Route – from the Horn of Africa to South Africa with Kenya as a transit point.
– Sinai Route – from the Horn to Israel through Egypt.
– Northern Route from both the Horn of Africa, Central Africa, West Africa and the Sahel to Europe.
The continued growth of human trafficking on the continent has also resulted in actions from the African Union (AU) in an effort to subvert the human crisis.
Sabelo Mbokazi, head of the African Union’s labour, employment, migration and social affairs department, says the AU has prioritised the issue of combating human trafficking.
“We have identified North Africa as one of the active corridors where the scourge has increased therefore the AU has established what is called the AU-Horn of Africa initiative, this is to work with countries in the horn of Africa and come up with policies that can help combat human trafficking. We are also establishing Africa’s operation centre in Khartoum Sudan, this centre will collect data from across the continent,” Mbokazi said.

South Africa: Home Affairs Officials Enforcing Immigration Laws

The Home Affairs Inspectorate officials, supported by SAPS, the City of Cape Town, the Departments of Social Development and Health are currently performing an operation at the temporary shelter called Wingfield in Maitland, Cape Town.
This temporary facility was set up on 7 April 2020 for protesting asylum seekers and refugees in Cape Town, in compliance with the Disaster Management Act.
The authorities are at the shelter to ensure a successful execution of the functions of the Standing Committee for Refugee Affairs (SCRA) and the Refugee Appeals Authority (RAA).
They are also there to identify and verify, in terms of Refugees Act and Immigration Act, the status of foreign nationals, who moved into the temporary facility on and after 2 April 2020.
“Since the country moved to Alert Level 1 of the lockdown, the officials of the SCRA and RAA have been able to process and finalise the appeals of the affected asylum seekers.
“The operation is progressing smoothly and the department will communicate the outcome of this operation after all processes have been concluded,” the Department of Home Affairs said.