Frustration over Home Affairs shambles

Frustration over Home Affairs shambles
17 September 2018 – Daily Maverick
The situation at the Department of Home Affairs is chaotic, says parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson Paul Chauke — from failure to properly implement years-old Supreme Court of Appeal rulings on refugee centres to lax security at departmental offices.
Delays and deliberations by the Department of Home Affairs over instructions issued by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs raises questions about Parliament’s ability to conduct oversight of the executive when it comes to managing immigration.
Committee chairperson Paul Chauke expressed frustration at the continued absence of the minister and deputy minster at the committee’s meetings and also wanted know why the Minister of Public Works was not present.
The meeting was mostly about the draft Immigration Bill, but the committee had also called for a report-back from the department on its progress in reopening refugee centres in Port Elizabeth and Cape Town, where it had shut down or cut back on services for immigrants.
This follows rulings by the Supreme Court of Appeal, in cases brought by the Legal Resources Centre, on behalf of the Scalabrini Centre, the Somali Association for South Africa and other civil society groups, that these offices be reopened.
Committee members expressed concern that there appeared to be little urgency in the Department of Home Affairs’ efforts to comply.
In March 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered Home Affairs to reopen the Port Elizabeth refugee reception centre and gave it until 1 July 2016 to comply. The same court ruled in September 2017 that Home Affairs must reopen the Cape Town reception centre by the end of March 2018. Yet the committee heard that as at August 2018 neither offices were fully operational.
Committee members expressed concern that there appeared to be little urgency in the department’s efforts to comply. One described the response as “insufficient”.
“We are not working in an urgent way as public servants. We must work with urgency. This is an emergency.”
The Department of Public Works, which is responsible for rolling out accommodation for government departments, also came in for a tongue-lashing from the committee. Members said that it “is holding all [government] departments hostage” and that Home Affairs is forced to “beg the Department of Public Works” to provide accommodation even though “we are paying the department a lot of money… They must go and do their job”.
Chairperson Chauke said the committee discussions were about the department’s role in national security and its capacity to manage immigration. He bemoaned the absence of government ministers, leaving communication from the department to Deputy Director-General of Immigration Services Jackson McKay. Chauke observed that McKay was clearly “demoralised” in the face of the enormity of the task, and the lack of resources.
By the end of the four-and-a-half-hour meeting Chauke also sounded somewhat demoralised and frustrated at the lack of progress:
“This is high security we are talking about here,” he said.
He reminded the department that Home Affairs offices were National Key Points, where people and information were supposed to be protected. Yet, in their oversight visits what the committee had seen instead was “chaos”.
“You lock a spaza shop. Every spaza shop is highly secured. But at Home Affairs, a National Key Point, where information about the formation of this country is stored, there is a problem, not only about the security of this country, but about the security of this department,” Chauke said.
The committee resolved on the need for another meeting with Public Works and Home Affairs.
“We need to try to reach an agreement to treat this as a National Key Point department,” he said.
Home Affairs argues that foreigners should in the main be processed as close as possible to the northern borders, where 90% of immigrants usually enter, to ensure that they cannot make their way across the country as far as Port Elizabeth and Cape Town without legally applying for refugee status.
McKay said that as soon as foreign nationals were registered as refugees they should appear on the national population register and could then make use of the normal services of local Home Affairs offices. The feeling was that there should then be no need for refugee centres throughout the country.
However, McKay conceded that the courts had decided that there was a need for these centres and said Home Affairs would be assessing the situation and would raise it with the minister and the deputy minister.
This comment does, however, raise questions: what is still to be discussed once the court has already ruled and Parliament has demanded Home Affairs compliance with the court ruling? Parliament is mandated to oversee the executive. Intra-department discussions with the minister surely come before, not after, the parliamentary committee has reached a decision.
Meanwhile Mandla Madumisa, Chief Director: Asylum Seeker Management at Home Affairs, briefed the committee on efforts so far to reopen the Port Elizabeth and Cape Town refugee reception offices, as well as a proposed new refugee facility in Lebombo, Mpumalanga.
He reminded the committee why the centres had been closed in the first place, referring to reports of abuse of clients, corruption and “the nuisance factor” that had led to court action. In Gauteng refugee reception centres were forced to close their doors because they were found not to be in compliance with local bylaws. The centre in Port Elizabeth was closed after the Department of Labour declared the facilities were not fit for human use.
He made the point that the decision to close these offices was an executive prerogative, and was made after taking into account the centres’ location, financial implications, the plight of clients, available suitable accommodation, effective management and service delivery, among other things.
“These offices have been closing and opening for the past couple of decades,” he said.
A Public Works official confirmed that the keys were handed over to the Port Elizabeth office on 31 May, and he said Home Affairs was busy “buying the chairs”. Security cameras have to be set up and “we are busy with the IT”, the official reported. He said the office will be fully functional by 31 October. This date was decided on after an appeal to the courts by civil society groups, who felt the process had been taking too long.
The office has 22 officials, compared to the 62 employed before the closure. Its staff now include two “status determination officers” and three inspectorate officials, who are responsible for enforcement of the conditions stipulated on refugee permits. This prompted Chauke to ask about the “effectiveness of your office [given] the volume of applications”.
Madumisa reminded the committee of the Treasury’s ceiling on staff appointments and explained that the department had observed a drop in demand for services at the Desmond Tutu and Musina offices. Staff was being redeployed from there. However, moving staff has proved costly. The reopened centre costs about R500,000 a month to run, he said. With a full staff complement, the salary bill alone would amount to about R4-million a year.
In Cape Town, Public Works had been notified to find accommodation after the court ruling. That was in January and a Public works official told the committee that a procurement process had begun after receiving ministerial confirmation.
He said two options were under consideration. One was the use of a state-owned property in Maitland where the plan was to install interim or “park” homes while the idea of having a permanent refugee centre in Cape Town was debated.
The other option is signing a lease agreement with a private company. The department gave the timelines: Adverts would be placed in September and applications closed in October, at which point a decision will be taken. That will be followed by “tenant installation” which was estimated to take about four to six weeks. Home Affairs would then embark on its own installation process, setting up IT systems, putting furniture in place, and so on. The committee heard that this normally takes Home Affairs about eight weeks, prompting a committee member to ask how it could possibly take eight weeks to lay out the furniture.
“If all goes according to plan,” the Public Works official declared, the new refugee centre could open for business at the beginning of April 2019. Using the property in Maitland would be quicker, he said, but the property had only been viewed once and a decision has not yet been reached.
“We need to go through our internal processes for approval,” he said.
At this point the committee chairperson interrupted to ask when the next monthly progress report was due, insisting that the committee receive it, “so that we are able to make a copy and check if you are really complying. Parliament must do its oversight”, he said.
The last office still to be opened is the proposed purpose-built refugee centre in Lebombo. The committee was told permission to proceed with building had received ministerial authorisation, but it was accompanied by an instruction to find a public-private partnership “as there was not enough in the coffers”. This proposal is now with Treasury, which imposes strict compliance on PPPs. The Public Works official said he hoped a tender would be appointed “around 2020”, and if compliance with Treasury requirements was met construction could start in 2021 or 2022.
Chauke also wanted to know if, in the process of installing IT systems, the new offices are complying with the committee’s earlier request to make sure that the systems in different offices are linked and “able to talk to each other”.
Directing this question to McKay, he asked if the details of any person who presented themselves at any Home Affairs office “would be picked up. If you are not doing this, why are you not doing this”?
McKay assured the chairperson that the system was capable of linking all offices in a single database, but said: “That is a system we have not activated due to corruption and control.”
He went on to say Home Affairs “took a decision not to allow that. We have to discuss with our political principals how we deal with that particular issue.”
This again raises questions about the committee’s oversight role. It suggests that the departments of Home Affairs and Public Works may not readily recognise Parliament’s constitutional duty to conduct oversight over the executive or pay sufficient heed to instructions from the committee.
A department official pushed back: “The real reason there is so much pressure on Home Affairs and refugee reception offices is that it takes forever for an asylum seeker’s permit to be dealt with. That is where the logjam is. [It takes about two years to process an asylum application and] that person will have to return to the office about a dozen times in those two years. There are thousands of people in the same situation, that is why you have these long queues and we spend an enormous amount of money trying to meet the demand for an impractical system.
“Twice we went to the Constitutional Court and we lost for whatever reasons, and all that money [for those Constitutional Court cases] is down the drain.”
Further frustration was expressed by department officials who reminded the committee that in Cape Town, for example, refugee centres in Maitland and later in Nyanga had to be closed because of complaints about queues of foreigners and allegations of crime and corruption. Naked racism and xenophobia were cited as some of the reasons for such complaints.
A shortage of funds was raised, and the point made that there were only 713 inspectorate officials appointed to manage migration throughout the country.
“There are more employed at OR Tambo airport,” an official said, who added that the corruption among the Home Affairs inspectorate officials “makes us even weaker”.
“There are holes in the bucket,” said one official, referring to illegal immigrants who managed to make their way across the country, accessing grants and places in schools that they are not entitled to. The department appealed for an increase in its budget, saying:
“Capacitate Home Affairs to do its job.”
Mackay said the department’s budget was a serious constraint.
“R7.9-billion is not enough for the department, yet it is at the centre of the government. Treasury should capacitate the department in this regard.”

How difficult is it for an unmarried father to register a child’s birth?

29 August 2018 – 702 Radio
After a number of calls from fathers explaining the difficulties they’ve faced registering their child’s birth without the mothers present, Bongani Bingwa invited Home Affairs to respond.
Acting Director-General of Home Affairs Thulani Mavuso says there are two categories when one registers a birth.
Children born in wedlock and children born out of wedlock. In South Africa, children that are born out of wedlock are registered under the mother’s surname.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs
Also where paternity has been acknowledged and the mother consents that the child can be registered using the father’s surname, the department accepts that.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs
He adds that it is a question of the two parties agreeing on the process and Home Affairs doesn’t refuse when the mother says they aren’t married but would like the child to be registered under the father’s surname.
He says when there isn’t an agreement between the parents, Home Affairs doesn’t regulate between the two parties.
But what we do is take the interest of the child and that is why the mother’s surname will then take effect because she is the one who has given birth to the child.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs
And Home Affairs cannot give the father rights as the mother should be the one that gives consent.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs
He says if there is still no agreement, then it is a matter of the courts to decide.
Fathers can register the birth without mothers in that instance but there will be multiple verifications that we would have to do.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs
One of the instances is if the fathers come to Home Affairs and say he is the father and the mother is no longer there, they then need to bring proof of death, hospital records.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs
He adds that if the father shows without doubt reasons linking him to this particular child, then they can register.
He says there are other instances when a father shows up with a 16-year-old, without a mother present, it becomes difficult to prove the authenticity.
We then say to that particular person, is that they should do a DNA test.
— Thulani Mavuso, Acting Director-General of Home Affairs

Ramaphosa woos Jewish community, seeking to allay land fears

2018-09-12_ News24
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday asked the Jewish community to join hands with the government in taking the country forward, assuring those who owned land that a solution addressing land reform would be found.
“We want to say that we would like the land reform process to unfold within the framework of our Constitution and to be underpinned by the rule of the law, and [it] should be implemented in ways that will broaden economic growth,” he said at the Gardens Shul in Cape Town.
“More importantly, it should be implemented in a way to promote social cohesion among all South Africans.”
Ramaphosa said many land owners were fearful and looked at reform as an intractable problem.
He said the same was said of apartheid but South Africans proved critics wrong by finding a lasting solution. He believed the same would happen with the land, through reconciliation and negotiation.
Referring to the land issue as a “wound” that had continued to fester, he said it needed further attention by being “dressed up, stitched and healed permanently”.
“Through the parliamentary process, we are certain we will arrive at a solution that provides clarity and certainty.”
Accepting an invitation to join celebrations for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Ramaphosa was met with thunderous applause when he touched on the fight against corruption, the quest to bring about peace in the Middle East and his hope for a brighter future for South Africa.
He didn’t miss a beat when he greeted the packed synagogue with “Shalom” and even demanded that Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein drop off a copy of the Talmud (religious text) so he could place it next to the Torah in his study.
Ramaphosa acknowledged the role that the community had played during apartheid and continued to play today in “every crevice of South African life”.
‘Freedom and democracy’
Goldstein warmly welcomed Ramaphosa and referred to him as a “true mensch”.
“Your election as leader of the ANC and elevation to the president of South Africa is a great victory for freedom and democracy and the hope of a brighter future for all,” Goldstein said.
“Mr President, we commend you for bravely and resolutely leading the fight against corruption,” he added, to more applause.
Goldstein said the Jewish community had its “sleeves rolled up” and was ready to partner with Ramaphosa to build the economy and create jobs.
He said they loved and cherished the State of Israel.
“During the Holocaust, Jews had nowhere to run and nowhere to turn. We cannot be separated from it (Israel).
“It is in South Africa’s best interests to form strong ties with the only, free democratic country in the Middle East and… to partner with the robust economy and technology of Israel.”
Ramaphosa responded that the downgrading of the SA embassy in Israel was an ANC conference decision but that South Africa stood ready to play a constructive role in the peace process.
“We are clear in our support for the achievement of a Palestinian state alongside the right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security with its neighbours,” he said.
“It remains our hope that people of Palestine and Israel will work with each other and with the international community to achieve lasting, peace and stability… What I would like to say is, let us continue engaging. Let us not walk away from each other.”
Ramaphosa acknowledged the technical recession and said the government was looking at ways to inject more life into the economy.
He said it had been music to his ears when he heard Jewish business leaders were prepared to come forward with a number of proposals on how to further create jobs.
“What we are going through now is just a dark patch,” he said in closing.
“The good thing is that we know where the problems are and as we go on, we know where the skeletons are… and where the bodies are buried. I can assure you that South Africa in the next while is going to be in a far better position.”



September 14, 2018 – The Daily Sun
HOME Affairs didn’t verify the Guptas’ documents while they were processing their papers for visas.
Home Affairs official Norman Ramashia, who deals with appeals, admitted this yesterday in parliament during the second day of the inquiry into the Guptas’ early naturalisation.
Ramashia said he didn’t check the representations former Sahara COO Ashu Chawla made on behalf of Ajay Gupta’s wife and mother when their application was rejected.
“We just took what they wrote based on the fact that if they misrepresented themselves, that’s something else.”
He said they didn’t verify many of the documents or information presented to them by the Guptas. “I accepted the information on the Guptas’ investment, and the number of people employed without verification, on face value.”
He said after looking at the Gupta appeal letter, Home Affairs thought the money the family contributed to the country was comforting but no one verified their claims of investing R25 billion and making donations to schools.
The Guptas claimed to be making donations to 77 North West schools.
The committee wants Chawla to testify but his lawyers said he is in India until the end of November.
Chawla was central to organising hundreds of permits and visas on behalf of the Guptas.
Another witness, Cornelius Christians, a commissioner in India who dealt with the Guptas, told parliament he knows their agent.
He said: “I deal with many business people and know Chawla. We have an open door policy at the High Commission. If a request is made, we look at the request case by case.”
He said it was normal to fast forward visas and not only a privilege for the Guptas. “In quick turnaround cases, it is normal to organise them for all businesses,” Christians said.
Committee chairman Hlomani Chauke said the irregularity that ruined the Gupta applications was caused by officials’ due diligence failure.
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba was expected to testify yesterday.

Easing of water restrictions will restore international investor confidence in Cape Town

Easing of water restrictions will restore international investor confidence in Cape Town
2018-09-13 – News24
The easing of the stringent water restrictions will restore international confidence in Cape Town as a destination for tourism and investment, say business leaders.
But it will take hard work getting the message out there.
Tim Harris, CEO of Wesgro, the agency that promotes tourism, trade and investment in Cape Town and the Western Cape, described the lowering of the stringent water restrictions as an important step forward in re-establishing trust and confidence in Cape Town as a destination for business and tourism.
“We will continue to work hard to get Cape Town and the Western Cape back on travellers’ consideration lists with positive, collaborative marketing efforts,” Harris said.
The lower water price that is to go with the lowering of restrictions on October 1 would be a great help for struggling businesses, particularly those who used water as a key input, Harris said.
The move was especially welcome during this period of reduced national economic growth.
“We urge companies to continue to use water wisely and to continue the great efforts in building water resilience.”
Harris said having a water-resilient city and province was essential to ensure future investment and growth.
The water restrictions have been lowered for commercial and industrial consumers from a 45% reduction to a 40% reduction.
Commercial and industrial water tariffs have come down 18% from R45.75 a kilolitre to R37.50 a kilolitre.
The City has increased personal water use from 50 litres a person a day to 70 litres.
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said what was needed now was to get the message out internationally to revive tourism and the film industry.
“Unfortunately, the drought and the Day Zero story made people look elsewhere for holiday destinations and filming locations. They may have liked the alternatives so we will have to fight hard to get the business back,” Myburgh said.
The chamber thought it unlikely that the easing of the water restrictions would result in Cape Town businesses or residents returning to former high levels of water consumption.
“Businesses and residents have learned to reduce water use and they have invested in water-saving devices, tanks and other measures. All this puts us in a much better position to cope with dry years in the future. This is the message we need to get out into the world,” Myburgh said.
University of Cape Town academic Kevin Winter, who heads the university’s Water Task Team, believes the easing of restrictions will also send out a message internationally that the City had got to grips with managing its water supplies, despite below-average rainfall this winter.
“The message it sends is that we have water now, it is safe to invest here, it is safe to travel here. Yes, water supplies are constrained, but the easing of the restrictions show water is better managed and it is safe to come back to Cape Town,” Winter said.
Storage capacity
Winter added when he travelled internationally, the question often arose about the City of Cape Town’s water governance.
“Talking to engineers, scientists and others in water governance, I find they don’t buy it as easily as we spin it. They say yes, they can accept and understand rainfall variability, but very quickly they get into a conversation about governance, about water management.
“No doubt everyone overseas admires the turnaround in the water situation, but they ask questions about mismanagement, about how we had been abusive of water in 2015 and the drought years.”
On Wednesday, the combined level of Cape Town’s dams was 69.4% of storage capacity. Theewaterskloof dam, by far the largest of the six dams, broke through the halfway mark to 51.8% of capacity.
Winter believed it was right of the City to lower water restrictions as the dams filled up.
“I think the City is being responsible, both to ease stress locally, and to say to the people of Holland, Germany and elsewhere, it is now okay to come here.”
Winter said UCT partnered with overseas universities who sent some of their students here. This brought as much as R90m in funding to UCT. However, there had been a marked drop in numbers, and Winter believes the water situation played a part in the lower international student numbers, along with student politics.
“The numbers are certainly nowhere near what we’ve seen before.”
Winter believes that there is no reason to fear that the easing of restrictions would lead people to waste water.
“Let’s test it out. We’ve got enough water to get us through the summer to 2019, to the next rainy season, and we’ve got numbers that the public can see every day. And if at the end of October we see overusage, we can go back.”
But not all agree.
Environmentalist Patrick Dowling, whose household of four have reduced their water consumption to six kilolitres a month, believes many may interpret the easing of water restrictions as a signal to go back to their bad old ways.
As part of the easing of restrictions, the City has set a new overall water usage target of 500 million litres (Ml) a day from October 1, in place of the current 450 million litres a day.
Dowling points out that Cape Town consumers have never once met the 450 million litre a day target.
Cape Town’s weekly consumption has been consistently more than 500 million litres a day, except for the weeks of May 7 (492Ml); June 2 (481Ml) July 16 (494Ml) and July 30 (498Ml).
Last week’s consumption was 526Ml a day.
“It’s a bad idea. As I understand it, there was a lot of lobbying of the City by the hospitality industry, from business and industry, to ease the water restrictions. And of course the City has its own concerns about loss of revenue from lower water sales.
“The climate change science is saying there is a general trend to a hotter, drier Cape Town and province, and that we could go down from an average of 600mm of rain a year to 350mm. So the precautionary principle should be applied. Yes, thanks for the rain, but also take note that this winter’s rainfall has not been phenomenal at all,” Dowling said.
Those people who had invested in rainwater tanks, greywater systems and boreholes, would continue to use these, and so would not go back to their high consumption.
“But for the rest, will they really still take short showers, and flush with grey water?”
Taryn Pereira of the Environmental Monitoring Group believes the easing of restrictions was a good move. She said 70 litres a person a day was still a strict measure.
“People know the dams are filling up, they see the figures, and I think if the City had not done it, there might be many people who would say: ‘What the hell’s going on? Rain is falling, dams are filling, you surely don’t expect us to stay with the same restrictions do you?’
“It would have been a real lack of trust in the City if there were no easing up,” Pereira said

Cops slammed over poor handling of refugees

Pretoria News / 12 September 2018,
The Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre at Marabastad. Asylum-seekers outside the centre are falling prey to crime in full view of police. Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)
PARLIAMENT has ordered the SAPS and Tshwane Metro Municipality to seek training from the SA Human Rights Commission for their police officers.
“The local police stations need to be educated about issues of asylum-seekers jointly with the Home Affairs Department,” the chairperson of the home affairs portfolio committee, Hlomane Chauke, said yesterday.
Chauke made this call after the committee received a briefing from the Home Affairs Department, SAPS and Tshwane metro police about security challenges at the Desmond Tutu Refugee Reception Centre in Marabastad.
“It does not make sense that you have the centre and the police don’t have a clue what its role and function are. They see these people (asylum-seekers) as targets to search (and shake down).
“That must change and those police, starting with the cluster commander in front of us, must be educated around issues of immigration,” Chauke said.
The meeting was called after portfolio committee members visited the centre. Chauke said they found that the metro police manned a permanent roadblock outside the centre and then took belongings of refugees who went there to seek services.
“We are again informed that the police will do the same in full view of the public and officials of Department of Home Affairs,” Chauke added.
He said asylum-seekers were also made to pay bribes to agents as well as being pick-pocketed in view of police, who did nothing to protect them.
Chauke said the situation was so serious that asylum-seekers visiting the facility went there in hired transport and left only when they were fetched.
It also emerged that there was no co-ordination by the departments to tackle crime outside the facility.
MPs heard that the municipal CCTV camera installed outside the centre were not working.Major-General Daniel Mthombeni, commander for the Pretoria central cluster, said no cases had been reported to the police.
“If allegations are reported to police, the cluster commander or provincial commissioner will investigate. Departmental steps will be taken against those responsible,” he said.
Chauke, however, said it was unlikely that the refugees would report the very same people who stole from them.

Tourism in SA: overcoming industry challenges

7 Sep 2018 – Tourism Update
Overall, the sentiment is one of a positive but realistic outlook. The trade agree that South Africa is coming off the back of three remarkably strong years which, according to Monika Iuel, CEO of Private Safaris, was unprecedented: “The destination has just come out of a three-year boom, with unprecedented international arrival numbers and massive capacity challenges.” However, 2018’s numbers are not looking as positive. According to Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) interim CEO, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa: “The first six months of the year have been disappointing. International numbers have declined, and domestic and corporate travel have also been affected by our poor economy.”
Key industry players agree that, despite this success, the current stagnation in arrival numbers is largely a self-made problem. Tshivhengwa uses the analogy of a sewage leak: “If you own a house, and a sewage pipe bursts, you don’t go and have a meeting about the pipe – you fix it. You don’t have a tender discussion about who will fix the sewage when it is leaking every day. It seems to defy common sense.”
Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism, agrees: “I am a firm believer that government should not be running business but rather create the space for business to operate successfully. If we are to attract investment in the industry, our duty as the public sector at SA Tourism is to profile the country overseas and drive traffic. It is a supply-and-demand relationship.”
“We are ready to thrive, but we need government to come to the table. We need to partner for growth, and government needs to recognise that growth comes from the private sector in this industry. If they want us to grow – as we are wanting to grow – they need to take down the things prohibiting our growth,” explains Tshivhengwa.
Judy Lain, Chief Marketing Officer at Wesgro says: “Collaboration is key in driving growth. If we as a country grow, we all as provinces and small towns will grow. We need to find new innovative ways of working together to help all take advantage of the tourism opportunities this country offers us.” Tshivhengwa further asks that government begins to realise the tourism industry as a leading space in the economy. He says the imposition of state regulations shows that the government has not yet recognised the tourism industry’s place in the economy, and the potential that comes along with it. “We want to create jobs as the industry. We want to help grow the economy as the industry. So we need government to take down the barriers that are holding us back. This includes things like the unabridged birth certificates and visa issues, as well as other regulations being imposed on our industry.
“We have engaged with the correct departments on the visa situation. We have asked them to show us the data that they say is the reason behind the imposing of the need for the unabridged birth certificates. We have been asking for three and a half years and no one has been able to answer us. It is unnecessary and a direct link to why our industry is struggling,” adds Tshivhengwa.
In addition to collaborative efforts, unlike most of the rest of the economy, the tourism industry stands to benefit from a weak rand. “Although our economy has been declared in a technical recession, our international market is where there is a silver lining. As the rand weakens, we can capitalise on that and encourage international visitors. Travelling to South Africa will be cheaper for them,” says Ntshona. Lain agrees, saying that, as a developing country, the benefit of foreign earnings offers a sustainable economic option.
Of course, the potential for growth from of foreign earnings is large. Creating a multiplying effect, tourism earnings are amongst some of the furthest reaching in our economy. For example, according to Statistics SA, one in 23 people in the country is employed in the tourism industry. In the Western Cape alone, the industry has seen over 38 000 new jobs created between 2013 and 2017, and tourism’s contribution to the province’s bottom line through Gross Value Added grew by 11.5% in 2017, on top of 15.5% growth seen in 2016, according to Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde. Lain adds: “Therefore it is so important that we realise that tourism is big business and take advantage of the opportunities tourism offers.”
However, in order to take advantage of this, the trade agrees that the industry needs to change the self-prohibiting nature of regulations in the industry. Lain says: “Today, in South Africa we are faced with challenges, for example, around visa regulations and red tape, which are limiting us in reaching our potential. Alleviation of these can help the industry grow and reach its potential.” Iuel believes that in order to grow the industry, the markets need to be opened up again by making it easier to travel here. She says this includes addressing issues of air access as well as the visa process.
Iuel concludes that there is a need for sensitivity when addressing growth in the industry, saying: “Growing the tourism numbers whilst safeguarding our unique selling points of scenic beauty and natural wildlife will be a massive challenge. Opening up markets (by removing visa processes etc.) should be done sensitively to ensure sustainability of our destination’s offerings.”