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Apr 25, 2013 - General, Visa, Visitors Permit    No Comments

Cape Town airport best in Africa

Cape Town airport best in Africa
Mar 12 2013 15:35 Sapa

Cape Town – The Cape Town International Airport has been rated the best in Africa for the third year in a row, Western Cape tourism MEC Alan Winde said on Tuesday.
“Cape Town International is a deserving recipient of this award. The award bears testament to consistent dedication to service delivery excellence by the management of the airport,” he said.
The title was awarded by the Airports Council International (ACI) in the 2012 Airport Service Quality Awards.
According to ACI, the next best airports in Africa were Durban, Cairo, Mauritius, and Johannesburg.

Apr 25, 2013 - General, Visa, Visitors Permit    No Comments

SA tourism outshines world average

SA tourism outshines world average
Apr 16 2013 20:24 Sapa

Johannesburg – South Africa stands out as a tourist destination in the world, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said on Tuesday.
“Last year we grew at more than double the world average – 10.5% for January to November 2012, compared to a global average growth of 4%,” he said at an awards ceremony in New York, according to a copy of his speech.
“With growth rates of more than double the world average and quadruple the world average if one takes overseas visitors into account, we can look back very favourably on 2012.”
He said tourism remained stable in South Africa in the midst of the 2008/2009 global financial crisis.
“South Africa is indeed a unique and varied destination which offers tourist experiences that suit every taste and budget,” Van Schalkwyk said.
“Visitors to South Africa stand in awe of how much this country has to offer, which includes the variety of experiences, the value for money, our world-class tourism infrastructure, and of course our culturally-diverse people.”
He said 2013 was a special year for South Africa, as it had entered its 20th year of democracy.
“Irrespective of what news agencies may tell you, South Africa still remains a story of hope, a story of inspiration, and a story of the future,” Van Schalkwyk said.
“That’s why more and more people want to come to our country and see it for themselves.”

Apr 25, 2013 - General, Visa    No Comments

Zuma: SA tourism growth ‘phenomenal’

Zuma: SA tourism growth ‘phenomenal’
Apr 25 2013 14:04 Sapa

Cape Town – The number of tourists visiting South Africa surpassed the nine million mark in 2012, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Announcing the annual tourism statistics in Cape Town, Zuma said 9 188 368 tourists visited South Africa in 2012 – up 10% from the 8 339 354 in 2011.
This was more than double the global tourist growth of 4%.
“This phenomenal tourism growth is evidence that we are successfully setting ourselves apart in a competitive marketplace and that South Africa’s reputation as a friendly, welcoming, inspiring, and unique tourism destination continues to grow,” Zuma said.
Growth from the overseas market increased by 15%.
Europe remained South Africa’s biggest source market, growing by 9.5%.
Strong growth from emerging markets in Asia and South America was also recorded in 2012.
“Since 2009 arrivals from China have more than tripled, arrivals from Brazil have more than doubled, and arrivals from India have almost doubled,” he said.

‘Rules needed to prevent fraudulent marriages’

‘Rules needed to prevent fraudulent marriages’
April 22 2013 at 09:18am
By Michelle Jones
Cape Town – The Department of Home Affairs says new rules for foreign couples wishing to wed in South Africa are intended to curb the high number of fraudulent marriages.
In the five years until January 2012, there were about 8 883 cases of fraudulent marriages or marriages of convenience, according to the department.
The Cape Times reported last week that these new rules wrap a would-be wedding in red tape, and many foreigners were not prepared to tie the knot here anymore.
Annoyed marriage officers and wedding co-ordinators said this was having a disastrous effect on the multimillion-rand local wedding industry.
Lunga Ngqengelele, spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor, said the department was on high alert when a South African and foreigner wished to marry, to avoid marriages of convenience, which had plagued it for a long time.
He said this practice had been followed for about 10 years but had been re-emphasised recently. Ngqengelele said these rules had been discussed at a meeting in April last year with both marriage officers and department officials.
Before a South African married a foreigner it was necessary for the couple to be interviewed by an immigration officer. He said questions asked included how long the foreigner had been in South Africa and whether he or she had a permit to be in the country.
To date, no couple had been unable to get married due to these requirements.
Ngqengelele said when two foreigners wished to marry in South Africa, they should have valid passports and a permit.
After the marriage had been solemnised, they would be issued with an abridged marriage certificate, which they would then use to register their marriage when they get back to their country of origin.
Marriage officers and wedding co-ordinators have called for a meeting with the department so they could raise their concerns. Ngqengelele said the department would welcome such a meeting.
Cape Times

Apr 21, 2013 - General    No Comments

The future of South Africa

The future of South Africa
Wednesday, 03 April 2013
By former President FW de Klerk
For this week’s newsletter, we have reproduced a speech given by former President FW de Klerk to Swiss Cham South Africa, in Zurich on 22 January 2013, in which he sets out his reasons to feel optimistic about South Africa’s future.
Worrying about the future is – and always has been – a central aspect of being a South African. Since 1652 visitors to our country have generally concluded that “it is a lovely place – but cannot possibly last for another five years.” However, time and time again, experience has proved that the pessimists were wrong.
At the moment, South Africa is once again experiencing serious international perception problems. They arise from the news coverage of a number of recent and current developments in the country. Foreign observers and investors are, in particular, worried about the following news from South Africa:
They are concerned by radical policy proposals that were discussed at the ruling ANC’s National Conference in Mangaung last month – including proposals for
• the establishment of a “developmental state” which would be “capable of intervening effectively to transform economic relations, at the centre of our economic agenda.”
• greater “state ownership, including more strategic use of existing state-owned companies”
• greater state involvement in mining, falling short of outright nationalisation;
• the utilisation by government of the assets of insurance and pension funds for state developmental projects; and
• accelerated land reform that would dilute existing property rights.
Observers and investors are also worried about the role that its being played by South Africa’s radical trade unions under the leadership of the trade union federation Cosatu.
• South Africa has a very poor record in terms of labour relations. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report it is the worst of 142 countries assessed in terms of co-operation in labour-employer relations;
• Cosatu has continuously raised labour costs without commensurate productivity increases – which has inevitably resulted in job losses. South Africa’s flexibility of wage determination is the fourth worst in the world.
• Our labour legislation is amongst the most onerous anywhere. South Africa’s hiring and firing practices are the second worst in the world.
• Cosatu has steadfastly opposed proposals to open labour markets to the unemployed – including proposals at the ANC’s 2005 National General Council for a two-tier labour system and more recent proposals for a youth employment subsidy.
Observers are also worried about developments such as the Marikana incident on 16 August, when 34 miners were killed by police – as well as ongoing reports of farm workers strikes in the Western Cape. Ironically, this was not a case of oppressed trade unionists campaigning for a decent wage. Their monthly income of R 11 500 per month already put them on a par with average wages, on a PPP basis, in first world countries like Poland, Israel and the Czech Republic. Their incomes were twice as high as average wages in competitor countries like Chile and Malaysia – and already placed them in the top 20% of income earners in South Africa.
All these developments have undoubtedly had negative implications for present and future foreign investment. According to the UN Conference for Trade and Development, foreign direct investment in South Africa has fallen by 43.6% in the past year – the largest decline among all developing economies. This is serious since South Africa is dependent on foreign investment, not only for growth, but also to cover our large current account deficit.
On 27 September last year Moody’s downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating from A3 to Baa1. Moody’s referred to policy uncertainty ahead of the ANC National Conference in December and noted that “The revision reflects Moody’s view of the South African authorities’ reduced capacity to handle the current political and economic situation and to implement effective strategies that could place the economy on a path to faster and more inclusive growth.”
Nevertheless, I believe that all these stories are creating a distorted picture of South Africa and its potential. I should accordingly like to bring some balance to the picture and spell out the reasons why I remain optimistic about South Africa’s medium and long-term prospects.
It is important to retain balance in one’s assessment of our complex society.
The fact is that there are often negative perceptions about Africa. It is interesting to note that before the FIFA World Cup that was hosted by South Africa in 2010, most foreign observers believed that the event would be a failure. According to a survey that was conducted before the event;
• only 29% of those polled thought that the World Cup in South Africa would be a great success;
• 58% expected that there would be problems with security;
• 57% thought that there would be transport and logistics problems; and
• 59% thought that the average South African would not benefit from the event.
Nevertheless, and after the event – the 2010 World Cup was generally regarded as having been one of the most successful and best run World Cups in history. According to a poll after the event:
• 72% fully believed that the World Cup would have a very positive or positive legacy for South Africa;
• 54% thought that it would bring great benefits to South Africa.
• 61% said that, as a result of the success of the World Cup, they thought that South Africa would be a good place to hold global events of all kinds.
• 42% felt more positive about visiting South Africa as a tourist.
In fact, South Africa has, on the whole, done pretty well since 1994.
After decades of isolation and criticism, the new South Africa has emerged as a respected member of the international community:
• We are regarded as an international model for democracy, constitutionalism, human rights and the rule of law;
• We have set an example for national reconciliation and multiculturalism;
• We have played a commendable role in promoting peace throughout our continent;
• We have become a member of BRICSA – the most dynamic group of global emerging economies;
• We play a leading role in international forums – in the UN Security Council and in the African Union.
We have experienced 18 years of economic growth – interrupted only briefly by the global economic crisis of 2008:
• During this period, South Africa, under the guidance of Trevor Manuel, implemented sound macro-economic policies that helped ensure steady growth rates rising to 5% in 2004 – 05. They also helped to protect us from the worst consequences of the 2008 economic crisis.
• We have the 28th largest economy in the world. We produce 30% of the GDP of sub-Saharan Africa with only 6.5% of its population.
• Our public debt is less than 36% of GDP – and external debt is only 16% of GDP. Countries like the USA, Japan, Italy and Britain would die to have such low debt ratios;
• Tourism now contributes almost 9% of GDP – more than mining.
• Automobile production – at 7% of GDP – is two and a half times bigger than agriculture. In 2008 we produced 600,000 vehicles.
We have also made remarkable social progress in many areas:
• The percentage of the population living in absolute poverty has declined from 31% in 1995 to 23% in 2008 – largely because of social grants.
• 94% of households now have access to drinkable water;
• more than three million housing units have been built – enough to house almost a quarter of the population – with another million units in the pipeline;
• three quarters of the population now has access to electricity and sanitation compared with only half in 1994;
International observers are constantly reminded of our failures – particularly in the areas of education, labour relations, unemployment and crime. However, many are unaware of our strengths and achievements.
South Africa does very well in a number of the categories assessed by the World Economic Forum in its Global Competitiveness Reports:
• The regulation of our security exchanges and our reporting standards are the best in the world;
• Our banks are the second soundest in the world and our corporate boards are the second most efficacious. Our financial services and protection of minority shareholders are third best in the world and our ability to finance local equity is the fourth best internationally.
• South Africa is also in the top 20% in the world in respect of its legal rights index; investor protection; the quality of its management schools; reliance on professional management; the efficacy of its legal dispute settlement system; the size of its domestic market and university driven innovation.
• We are in the second 20% with regard to air, road and railway systems; property rights; the protection of intellectual property; judicial independence; availability of the latest technology and the size of our foreign markets. Despite growing corruption our record is still better than most of our competitors in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Where we score badly is in those areas of national activity that fall under the responsibility of government. We are in the bottom 20% with regard to the quality of our education system; the business cost of crime and violence; HIV prevalence; and labour market efficiency.
What emerges from all this data is a picture of dysfunctional government on the one hand and a fairly sophisticated private banking and commercial sector on the other.
The good news, as far as I am concerned, is that government is increasingly aware of its own shortcomings and is in the process of adopting realistic plans to address them. It is doing so under the guidance of our National Planning Commission – which is led by former finance minister Trevor Manuel.
Although some of the National Planning Commission’s analysis is open to debate, few reasonable South Africans would disagree with its overall vision – or with its identification of the challenges confronting South Africa.
The NPC presents a vision of a future South Africa that we all can share. It includes
• Constitutional democracy;
• unity in diversity;
• high quality education;
• health and social services providing security to all those in need;
• sustainable and equitable economic growth;
• fair employment for all;
• an environment in which business can invest, profit and contribute to national goals;
• an effective state and public service;
• mutual respect and human solidarity; and
• a South Africa that contributes to Africa and to the world.
Neither would reasonable South Africans disagree with the NPC’s diagnosis of the problems confronting South Africa. They include:
• High unemployment;
• poor education – especially for black South Africans;
• inadequate and antiquated infrastructure;
• spatial planning that marginalises the poor;
• unsustainable resource-intensive growth;
• an ailing public health system;
• poor public service delivery;
• corruption; and
• the fact that South Africa is still a divided society.
The National Development Plan makes proposals to address these challenges. We might not all agree with all aspects of these proposals – but at least they provide a pragmatic, inclusive and rational basis for discussions about our future.
More good news is that the ANC’s National Conference last month strongly endorsed the National Development Plan as the primary blueprint for the future. Perhaps, even more significantly, it elected Cyril Ramaphosa – who is Deputy Chairperson of the National Planning Commission – as Deputy President of the ANC. Ramaphosa – who was the ANC’s chief negotiator during the negotiations that led to the adoption of our 1996 Constitution – was Nelson Mandela’s choice as successor.
After the ANC chose Thabo Mebeki in his stead, Ramaphosa withdrew to the business world where he soon became one of South Africa’s most successful businessmen. Accordingly, he has widespread experience both in the politics of the ANC and in the realities of business. Some observers expect that during President Zuma’s second term, he will play the kind of Prime Ministerial role that Thabo Mbeki played during the Mandela presidency.
Among its other proposals, the National Development Plan makes provision for an enormous infrastructure development programme during the next 15 years that will require more than US$ 500 billion investment. The plan makes provision for the upgrading of South Africa’s aging power generation; transportation; telecommunication; municipal; education and health infrastructures.
All this will create enormous opportunities for foreign investors.
I also remain an optimist about South Africa’s future because of the excellent foundation that our non-racial Constitution has created for present and long-term stability.
Ironically, the virtues of our Constitution were best articulated by one of the ANC’s top ideologists, Deputy Minister Ngoako Ramathlodi. In an article in September 2011 he complained that during the negotiations “apartheid forces” had succeeded in “emptying the legislature and executive of real political power.” They had done this by “immigrating substantial power away from the legislature and the executive and vesting it in the judiciary, Chapter 9 institutions and civil society movements.”
Exactly. The Constitution did not devolve absolute power on parliament and on the executive. It provided them with all the powers they needed to rule – but required them to do so within the reasonable constraints established by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. This means that power is, indeed, dispersed throughout society; that unconstitutional laws and conduct can be checked by an independent judiciary; that ordinary citizens can promote their legitimate objectives through civil society organisations and that they can appeal to Chapter 9 institutions to defend their rights.
A second reason for optimism is that South Africans who support the Constitution are now fully in step with the best elements in the international community. Any government action that deviates too significantly from international norms of democratic and economic governance will be severely punished by markets and international opinion.
Thirdly, no modern state can successfully govern against the will of substantial minorities. The United States would not be able to ignore the reasonable interests of any of its minorities. Neither can South Africa. There is no way that government will be able to achieve important national goals if it alienates significant minorities and interest groups.
Fourthly, those who support pragmatic constitutional and economic approaches have an enormous advantage in the political debate. Ideological approaches – like apartheid, the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution and communism – simply do not work. They inevitably end in economic distortion or collapse – and always result in unacceptable human repression and suffering.
Finally, support for the constitution is no longer a black/white thing. Black politicians, journalists, businessmen and religious leaders are in the vanguard of those who support the Constitution. They know that it is the best guarantee for the continuation of freedom, reconciliation and national unity – and they also know that it advocates transformation. The principles of democratic governance, openness, accountability, responsiveness and the supremacy of the rule of law are not alien ‘Western’ constructs: they are the fundamental requirements for successful societies everywhere – in Europe, in the Americas, in Asia and in Africa.
South Africa will succeed – provided that we can work together as South Africans to support our Constitution; to demand the rights that it guarantees; and to achieve the vision of human dignity, equality and enjoyment of human rights and freedoms that it articulates.
So the next time you see negative headlines about South Africa, I would invite you all to look a little deeper at the picture and consider the enormous potential that our country offers.
I, personally, am confident that we South Africans will once again prove that the pessimists are wrong.

Apr 21, 2013 - General    No Comments

Plan for a better future needs backing to succeed

17 APRIL 2013

Dr Ismail Lagardien –

It is often easy to become pessimistic, or even fatalistic, about South Africa. It is also hard to escape the fact that there are, sometimes, valid reasons for such pessimism and fatalism…

What seems exceedingly difficult is to plan for and (actually) establish a better, more prosperous and stable country in which there is a high level of trust among citizens. The National Planning Commission (NPC) report is the latest, the most ambitious and, arguably, the most coherent and widely accepted strategy to help establish such a country. After the National Development Plan 2030 was presented to the president and Parliament on 15 August, the commission received plaudits and fairly widespread support for its work. The plan, it would appear, is solid. Yet, it is hard to shake the sense that drawing up the plan, consulting thousands of people in hundreds of engagements and interactions over several months, was the easy part. Given successive false starts and other clever, but sometimes anaemic, policy proposals over the past 18 years, unless there is intellectual and institutional continuity, the NDP, too, may yet fail.

A review of best practice around the world reveals that implementing a national development plan requires decisive leadership, deep insights into how the world and particularly global capitalism work (what policy space exists), coherence, stability and the humility to learn from others. What happens over the next few months could, therefore, prove decisive in the life and work of the NPC and for the future of the country.

No amount of obfuscation or fudging can conceal two important questions about the commission and the NDP – the future institutional form of the NPC, and where it will be situated. In both cases, best practice around the world suggests that the planning function in government must become a formal, permanent institutional body of the state, and that it should be steered, or at least overseen, from the highest office in the land, by the most competent elected officials and public servants. At present, the NPC is an advisory body created by President Jacob Zuma, and its term expires in 2015. The commissioners are part time and the secretariat is significantly understaffed and under-resourced. That the plan was pulled together, published and presented to South Africa on the dates and in the format(s) that were promised was nothing short of a miracle. What happens in the next six months is probably more important than the work that the NPC has done over the past two years. To even meet the objectives in the NDP halfway, the commission requires capable leadership, intellectual and institutional continuity, stability and better-than-adequate resources. South Africa can learn a lot from the planning functions of other countries.

The planning function in governance

Planning is increasingly considered vital for successful statecraft and governance, more recently because of the successes of China, India, Brazil and Malaysia, among others. While planning is considered to be a function of ‘developing countries’ – as Gang Zhang of the OECD told me earlier this year – some of the most developed countries in the world have established various permutations of planning functions. One research project by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis in the United States lists at least 70 bodies responsible for planning in countries around the world. Not all these functions are situated in specific ministries dedicated exclusively to planning. In some countries, the planning functions are coupled with ministries or departments of finance, trade, statistics or budget management. Among several others, Belgium has a Federal Planning Bureau; Brazil has a Ministry of Planning, Budget and Management; Ghana has a Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning; Hong Kong has a Central Planning Department; India has a Planning Commission; the Netherlands has a Social and Cultural Planning Office and, in the US, the planning function is situated in the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Two things that stand out from almost all the examples is that the planning function in each country is located in the office of the president or prime minister – or as close to the centre of government as it can be. In India, the prime minister chairs the planning commission. In Malaysia, the planning function is the responsibility of a cabinet minister in the prime minister’s office. In almost every case, given the coupling of planning with management, budget and the economy, planning is integrated in a type of nested hierarchy in which all component elements converge on a single objective – the protection and advancement of the country’s national interests, regardless of how these interests may be defined. National planning becomes, therefore, the institutional driving force of policymaking (while specific departments maintain their core functions), monitoring and evaluation of implementation and performance.

The NPC is, at present, only an advisory body in the Presidency. Politically and institutionally the NPC will, however, remain relatively weak, because it is not a government department, and because there is, for now, no clarity about its future – beyond the fact that the president gave it a five-year term and that the term expires in three years. That it is led by some of the most intelligent and respected people in the country is beyond doubt; what can be questioned is whether the political courage exists to follow best practice in the world, and place the commission in a position of authority and provide it with resources. One outcome of this is that the commission’s work becomes interwoven with that of national, provincial and local government departments.

Overcoming political bewailed political inertia

The creation of the NPC was a bold and decisive move by the president. Deeper retreat into inertia, amid the current phase of uncertainty, can only result in a significant loss in credibility on the part of the government and lock the country into a vicious cycle of unemployment, poverty and inequality. In political economy, there is an understanding that greater transparency (the typical reference is to policies like inflation targeting) ensures credibility and effectiveness in policymaking and implementation. As things stand, the NPC, having submitted to the government and the nation a plan to lead the country towards greater prosperity, equality and stability, through inclusive growth and an expansive economy, appears to be at a loose end – notwithstanding the outstanding work that has been done by the commission.

When read and understood, intertextually (to borrow a phrase) with, especially, the constitution and with successive policies, the NDP is a solid basis for the expansion of the economy to make it more labour-absorptive, and to spread prosperity gains more equitably across society. While the plan makes specific reference to engaged and active citizenry and to the need for social cohesion, the people have spoken, as it were, and endorsed the plan. It is, for now, the political leadership that seem locked in inertia when it comes to giving effect to the NDP. The commission needs to be strengthened by giving it the best leadership and resources that are available in the country – and consolidating its work and place in the Presidency. South Africa must overcome the much-bewailed inertia that besets political decision-making and the implementation of otherwise sound policies. Pessimism has become widely embedded in our political culture.

Pessimism about South Africa’s future should, however, not become a fig leaf for inertia. With the NDP, the commission has overcome this tendency towards inertia. While I do not speak on behalf of the NPC (I write this in my private capacity as a political economist with a deep commitment to creating a better future for our country), I can say, unequivocally, that the NDP is a plan to build a better future for all South Africans. We may never have the society that we seek for South Africa, but that does not mean we should stop fighting for it; for now, the National Planning Commission is our best hope. The country’s political leadership must shore up the institutional basis of the commission. We can do this.

Apr 21, 2013 - General    No Comments

SA’s drinking water world class

SA’s drinking water world class
Thursday, 04 April 2013
South Africa has the distinction of being one of only twelve countries in the world where it is safe to drink our tap water. As at 2012, the quality of South African tap water is ranked as third best overall.
In solidarity with the focus on World Water this past month, the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa (IWMSA) applauds our municipalities for their continued monitoring of, and attention to, the quality of our drinking water.
South African municipalities have wholeheartedly embraced the international Blue Drop certification programme which is an incentive-based initiative that is used to regulate water services bodies worldwide in order to improve and maintain the quality of tap drinking water. Blue Drop certification covers a multitude of aspects of water management.
Deidre Nxumalo-Freeman, President of the IWMSA says “In South Africa, our constitution dictates that access to safe drinking water is a basic human right. The Department of Water Affairs instituted the Blue Drop programme in 2008 and since then, we have largely seen continuous improvement in the rankings of our municipalities in respect of drinking water quality.
“One source of our water is groundwater, water that collects underground from runoff; we consider it essential that people are aware of how easily our water tables can become contaminated through bad waste management practices. We also need to be vigilant when it comes to maintaining and upgrading the infrastructures that allow us to have a high quality of drinking water.
“The IWMSA is strongly focused on education and training, and has worked effectively with a number of municipal bodies in order to better equip them with an understanding of the importance of effective waste management issues from the ground up. As such we believe in the efficacy of getting a message across, particularly to those working at grass roots level, in order to engender a greater appreciation of the importance of their various functions.
Nxumalo-Freeman concludes “Whilst our local and district municipalities are responsible for ensuring that we have access to safe drinking water, the quality of which must be regularly monitored and measured to see whether it matches up to national drinking water standards; we must all assist in the process and we believe that the IWMSA has an important role to play in creating awareness along with empowerment through information.”
The IWMSA is a non-profit organisation comprising a body of dedicated professionals in their respective fields, who give freely and voluntarily of their time and expertise in order to effectively educate, promote and further the science and practice of waste management.
SA – the Good News via SAPA