May 18, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

SA tourism tragedy looming

2015-05-15 – Traveller 24
Cape Town – The countdown has begun for the implementation of South Africa’s new visa rules for children, which from 1 June 2015 requires an unabridged birth certificate for all travelling children travelling to, through or out of SA.

While Tourism minister Derek Hanekom has expressed concern about the effect of new visa regulations on the tourism industry he felt it was too early to determine its exact impact on the industry that grew by 6.6% in 2014, reportedly higher than most countries’ averages.

Hanekom did however state that he was concerned about the negative growth over the past six months from countries affected by the regulations.
Potential R6.8bn loss and SA’s competitiveness as destination affected
Contrary to the department’s cautious approach to evaluate the future impact the new rules could have on South Africa’s tourism industry, DA Member of Parliament James Vos says the new immigration rules will cost the tourism sector over R6.8bn in losses and result in severe job cuts.

Vos said this was according information released by the Board of Airline Representatives South Africa.

According to a report by the World Economic Forum, South Africa has a lot going for it in terms of tourism investment, but new visa rules could spoil all of that as the rules could harm South Africa’s competitiveness as a destination.

When the new rules come into play, airlines will be forced to refuse travel to families not in possession of these documents.

“A child denied boarding by an airline ultimately means a family can’t travel and, by industry estimates, until traveller awareness is 100%, tourist arrivals to South Africa could be negatively impacted by up to 20%,”said Vos.
Based on 2013 numbers, 536 000 foreign visitors could be denied travel, said Vos.

“The lost income to South Africa from these high value visitors could be over R6.8bn annually inevitably leading to job losses in the South African tourism sector.
Facilitate repeat travel with the ease of e-visas
The new immigration regulations have been widely criticised and Vos said the DA has made several submissions to streamline tourist facilitation by proposing the introduction of electronic visas and biometrics on arrival.
“It is most alarming to read that several travel and tourism websites and online publications are warning travellers about these new regulations. It is without a doubt that this will harm our tourism industry and brand as a country of choice. We have proof of cancelations from several major tour operators that are marketing South Africa abroad.”

Vos told Traveller24 that despite statements in Parliament by President Jacob Zuma about the need to create a task team that would urgently look at the effects of the new visa rules, nothing has been done.

“I will therefore make a submission to the Portfolio Committee that the review panel instituted by the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, should include tourism operators.”

“The tourism industry must be involved in the review to find practical solutions and present viable alternatives to in person visa applications such as the introduction of biometrics on arrival and electronic visas.

“In countries where these systems have been implemented, they have proved to be very effective in terms of safety and turnaround times and their introduction would cost far less money than the country is currently losing from a decline in tourism numbers.

In addition to this, Vos said he would be approaching the tourism ombudsman, put in place by the New Tourism Act of 2013, to try and take the industry’s concerns forward.
SA Tourism ombudsman to be put to the test
“I’m going to be putting the tourism ombudsman to the test to see if it really has the best interest of South Africa’s tourism industry at hand,” Vos said.

The Department of home affairs has since issued an official brochure to prospective travellers – click here to see the Department of Home Affairs official visa brochure for children travelling to SA as it appears on its website.
In addition to the visa concerns facing South Africa, Vos highlighted a number of key issues in his speech made during the Department of Tourism’s budget vote on Thursday.
Vos reiterated the sentiment from locals that tourism and travel in South Africa is seen as simply “too expensive”.
“A family of four would end up paying R920 for a trip to Robben Island. Robben Island has announced that it will be increasing its ticket prices. Table Mountain already makes it possible for locals to visit for free, simply by presenting their South African ID on the day of their birthday.
Vos said the DA has proposed that the National Department of Tourism considers introducing a model titled “Experience Our South Africa” which will focus specifically on encouraging South Africans to get out and explore our country, while addressing affordability issues and limited geographic spread.
“This in turn should also help to stimulate job creation and economic growth within surrounding communities,” said Vos.
“At the same time, affordable accommodation needs to be prioritised – a budget resort chain must be introduced, and must be affordable to all South Africans.
Vos said it was disappointing to note that not much had been done concerning the announcement of a pilot budget resort chain noted during former Minister of Tourism Marthinus Van Schalkwyk’s budget speech in 2013.
Budget resort chain could help make local tourism more accessible
“The DA’s own research has revealed that there are approximately 700 municipal resorts throughout the country that have become dysfunctional, dilapidated and poorly managed.
This is deplorable given the fact that these resorts were built with taxpayers’ money – they are becoming a huge liability for these municipalities.”
Vos said it was time for the department to put this into action in order to grow local tourism industry through jobs, better managed facilities and more affordable travel options for locals.
– Traveller24

May 15, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Tourism minister concerned about visa regulations

2015-05-14 14:45 – Jan Gerber, Media24 Parliamentary Bureau
Cape Town – Tourism minister Derek Hanekom has expressed concern about the effect of new visa regulations on the tourism industry.
However, it was too early to determine its exact impact on the industry that grew by 6.6% in 2014, higher than most countries’ averages.
“But yes, they are impacting,” he told reporters in Cape Town ahead of his department’s budget vote on Thursday afternoon.
There had been negative growth over the past six months from countries affected by the regulations.
“I am concerned about it.”
He said he was in discussions with Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba to try and find ways to alleviate the problem.
The opposition Democratic Alliance has also expressed concern over the impact of the regulations, especially with them being tightened from June when children will be required to travel with unabridged birth certificates.
“A child denied boarding by an airline ultimately means a family can’t travel and, by industry estimates, until traveller awareness is 100%, tourist arrivals to South Africa could be negatively impacted by up to 20%,” said DA tourism spokesperson James Vos.

May 14, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Lawyers for Human Rights gets access to foreigners arrested in raids

2015-05-12 14:40
Jenni Evans, News24
Johannesburg – The department of home affairs and the police narrowly escaped a contempt of court order on Tuesday by agreeing to let Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) consult with between 200 to 400 foreign nationals arrested in raids last week.
”The parties have come to an agreement. The applicant will be withdrawing the [contempt of court] application,” said LHR advocate Julie-Anne Harwood in the High Court in Johannesburg.
The department of home affairs agreed to pay the costs of the application.
LHR had secured an urgent court order from Judge Zeenat Carelse on Friday to have access to those arrested in the pre-dawn raids after allegedly being blocked by the departments of home affairs, and police at Johannesburg Central Police Station.
But, in spite of the order, they were still not able to consult those detained, so they lodged an application for contempt of court.
During a morning of waiting, consultations in the small rooms outside the court, and drawing up of draft orders on the move, LHR and the departments reached an agreement which was endorsed by Carelse, who was hearing the matter again.
The first agreement was that LHR would withdraw its contempt of court application against the departments.
The second was that the LHR would be able to consult with those being detained at Lindela, a holding facility between Krugersdorp and Randfontein on the West Rand, at Johannesburg Central Police Station, and 22 women living at a shelter with their children.
The interdict also means that those detained by the police and army during ”Operation Fiela” in Johannesburg cannot be deported on Wednesday as planned.
Also, the LHR will have two weeks to get a list of names of those detained, time to check their papers to establish whether they are in South Africa legally or not, or whether they are refugees or have asylum papers.
LHR had submitted in its application that not only were the police allegedly blocking access to those arrested, but that those detained were already being made to sign order relating to their being deported.
They had said that in terms of the Immigration Act, a refugee or asylum seeker could not be deported until their safety at their destination had been established.
Carelse, who allowed the withdrawal, and granted the order, had strong words for counsel for the State.
”This has been quite an unpleasant matter to the extent that an allegation of contempt was made,” said Carelse.
”Kindly advise your clients that this is a settlement agreement and next time I might not say that… There should be complete adherence,” she said to the State advocate Nomkhosi Nharmuravate.
Afterwards, LHR’s David Cote said: ”They (the State) are required to put together a list by tomorrow (Wednesday) of all those detained on Friday. There is also an interdict against deportation for two weeks.”
He said that if they had been given a chance to consult with those arrested during the raids early on Friday morning, they would not have come to court.
He said the South Africans arrested during the raids had been released.
Cote said this court application related specifically to the raid in Johannesburg on Friday morning, but LHR could consult with others arrested in similar raids across the country.
The raids came after a spate of xenophobic attacks around the country. According to the police, ”Operation Fiela” has led to 889 people being arrested in seven provinces so far.
In KwaZulu-Natal, 278 were arrested, 414 in Gauteng, 29 in the Free State, 24 in the Western Cape, 10 in the Northern Cape, nine in North-West and 125 in the Eastern Cape since April 27 2015.
”The arrests are for various offences and of the 889 arrested, 13 were arrested for drug-related crimes, 13 for assault, four for murder, two for unlicenced firearm and ammunition,” a statement said.
The statement said that 745 people were arrested for being in the country without documentation and would be deported.

May 13, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

Rights coalition slams Operation Fiela

2015-05-12 – Jenni Evans, News24
Johannesburg – Naming a police and army operation which arrests foreigners ”Operation Fiela”, which translates to ”clean sweep” implies that those arrested are ”rubbish” and is counter to government’s commitment to crack down on xenophobia, Stephen Faulkner from the People’s Coalition Against Xenophobia said on Tuesday.
He was speaking at a press conference called to express concern over the arrest of large groups of foreign nationals during the nationwide operation days after the government had pledged itself to stop xenophobia following a wave of attacks against foreigners in Johannesburg and Durban in April.
”It is not an exaggeration to say it was a military operation,” said Faulkner of the raids, the latest taking place last Friday in Johannesburg’s CBD and at the Central Methodist Church, which he said symbolises a ”safe haven” for asylum seekers and refugees.
”Untold numbers, including women and children were then herded like criminals to the central police station,” he said.
”They are being compared to rubbish.
”We are asking for a complete rethink of Operation Fiela,” he said.
‘This is increasing xenophobia’
The coalition believes that instead of dealing with crime and social problems, government is ”harassing and arresting on a mass scale” and equating crime with the presence of undocumented people in South African society.
”This is not tackling xenophobia, this is increasing it.”
He said lawyers had not even had confirmation from the police yet of how many people had been arrested.
He was speaking after Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) had managed to finally secure access to those arrested through a second court order in the High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, the department of home affairs and the police had narrowly escaped a contempt of court order by finally agreeing to let LHR consult with between 200 to 400 foreign nationals arrested in the raids in Johannesburg last week.
”The parties have come to an agreement. The applicant will be withdrawing the [contempt of court] application,” said LHR advocate Julie-Anne Harwood.
The department of home affairs agreed to pay the costs of the application.
LHR had already secured an order late on Friday after hearing of the arrests, because the police allegedly would not let them see the people arrested.
But, in spite of the order, they were still not able to consult those detained, so they lodged the application for contempt of court on Tuesday.
Now LHR can consult with those being detained at Lindela, a holding facility between Krugersdorp and Randfontein on the West Rand, at Johannesburg Central Police Station, and about 22 women living at a Gift of the Givers shelter with their children.
By noon on Wednesday, the State has to give LHR a list of all those detained and is not allowed to deport any of those arrested for two weeks while lawyers check their documentation and explain their rights to them.
According to some of the affidavits submitted for Tuesday’s application, people were woken up between 03:00 and 04:00 by police and taken outside. Some said they had lost their documents, and others said they were not allowed to go and fetch their documents.
LHR’s David Cote said after the order was granted that about 60 South Africans had also been detained, but were released.
LHR attorney Wayne Ncube said at the coalition’s joint press conference: “It is easy to use ‘illegal foreigner’ as a scapegoat without understanding what the term means.”
Refugee centres closed down
The South African government had made it difficult for people to get the right paperwork by closing down some of its refugee and asylum seeker refugee centres, he said.
Ncube said the deportation process was complicated: it must be verified that a person is an illegal immigrant; then that person’s country, through an embassy or consulate, has to verify that they are from there; and then travel plans can be made.
LHR believed that some deportations had been planned for Wednesday, even though the process is not normally that quick. Not following all the procedures could mean sending somebody – an asylum seeker or refugee – to their death, said Ncube.
Lawyers would now have to check all the procedures that were followed for Friday’s raids, such as the warrants used and check each detainee’s documentation and explain their rights and obligations to them.
Faulkner questioned why the Methodist Church, whose central building was regarded as a haven, had not said anything to condemn the raids.
Asked for comment, government spokeswoman Phumla Williams said: ”We are on record as saying it [Operation Fiela] is a multi-disciplinary intervention of government based on inputs of consultations done for foreign nationals themselves, and communities themselves and consultations the executive did with various communities.”
She said over 77 community engagements were held and over 50 foreign nationals, church and business representatives were consulted and out of that, there was a request to government to intervene in what was happening in communities.
‘Illegal weapons, drugs found’
They asked that drugs, illegal weapons, and people in the country illegally are dealt with.
”I should underline that the people said it is not all foreign nationals.”
Operation Fiela was not targeted at any specific person, but it was uprooting problems in the communities.
”Illegal immigrants were found, drug trafficking was found, illegal weapons were found. No one has been taken who has been in the country legally as a foreigner,” said Williams.
”Anybody who could produce their documentation was not taken. Anybody who did not have an illegal weapon has nothing to fear.”
She said the condition of the children whose parents were detained were checked and ”there was no proof that they were treated unfairly”.
The coalition will meet Gauteng Premier David Makhura next week to discuss its concerns.

May 13, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

South Africa’s glimmers of hope

2015-05-12 – Max Du Preez – News24
South Africans are not going to sit back and watch passively as all hope we have of a better future disappears into the sand.

Two events the last few days gave me a glimmer of hope after months of depressing developments: the Solidarity Movement’s “crisis conference” and the Democratic Alliance’s elective conference.

I have no association with either grouping. But both sent out a strong message that civil society is digging in its heels and is becoming involved.

This is exactly the medicine we need: new civil activism. South Africa is on a slippery slope and citizens should make it their business that the slide is stopped.
New energy
No, it’s not strange that I mention two movements that are light years apart in one breath. They serve completely different constituencies and have very different political cultures, but in essence we’re talking about a new energy and commitment among citizens who want to halt the decline.

It’s early days, but as I see things today, I think the DA with its new face and approach has an excellent chance to play a much stronger role in our political affairs with its new dynamism and credibility.

It could very well be the party that will introduce real coalition politics and even a realignment of parties to our political scene.

I got the impression on the weekend that there was a fascination and scarcely hidden sense of excitement among many black South Africans about Mmusi Maimane’s election as leader of the Official Opposition, even among people who wouldn’t be seen dead in a blue T-shirt.

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, you have to agree that Sunday was an important day in our political development.
There is still some hope
Maimane is perhaps not a real political heavyweight yet, but he has good political instincts, he has charisma, he is a good orator and appears to be a decent and talented human being.

His election and the things he said during his acceptance speech are a much needed antidote to the wave of racial mobilisation we have experienced recently.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there is still some hope that we can stop, turn around and again embark on the difficult road of real non-racialism.

The DA’s strongest argument, especially when it comes to next year’s local government election, is that it can prove that it can be trusted to govern, at least on provincial and local level.

Few people actually believe the propaganda that the Western Cape and Cape Town are being governed as enclaves of apartheid.
This was the point where the DA congress and the Solidarity conference touch: both sent messages that South Africans deserve better government on all levels.
Getting things done
The keynote speech made by Flip Buys, leader of Solidarity, last week was an interesting intervention that could shift a few things, despite his emphasis on ethnicity and his flirtation with Afrikaner self-determination.

Solidarity and AfriForum have a record of getting things done and of getting involved on local communities, even though their main focus is on Afrikaners.
Solidarity’s position, says Buys, is that “the future is too important to leave to government”. The weakening of the state sector demands a greater role by the community sector, he says.

I agree with this sentiment. Stability is South Africa’s greatest asset. If the state sector keeps on faltering and nobody steps in, that stability comes under threat. The poor and the minority groups will feel the pain first and worst.

I hope Buys and his colleagues realise that their mantra of Afrikaner “self-help” will boomerang if they define it too narrowly. If only Afrikaners or whites benefit, but black anger and frustration continues to boil over, it would help them very little.

Sure, they can claim it’s all the ANC’s fault, but we will all suffer of we don’t fix the whole system.
I hope Buys will see that the slow pace of land reform, for instance, is not only unfair to black South Africans, it is actually becoming a threat to white commercial farmers and their enterprises.
Time for action
Government has spend many billions on land reform with very little to show for it. Land Affairs minister Gugile Nkwinti’s confusing and confused new proposals for farm size ceilings last week showed that little is about to change.

It would be to the benefit of the whole country if people like Buys and organised commercial agriculture stepped in with an ambitious project to speed up real land reform and the empowerment of black farmers.

And would it be too much to ask for the likes of Solidarity, in essence a white trade union, to extend a hand of friendship and possible cooperation to structures such as Cosatu and Numsa?

The time for whining and playing victim is over. The time for action and pro-active engagement has come.

May 12, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

‘Displaced foreigners showing signs of post-traumatic stress’

11 May 2015 – EWN
JOHANNESBURG – Concerns have been raised about the psychological effects of the recent xenophobic attacks on foreigners in South Africa.
Doctors Without Borders on Monday said many foreigners living at displacement camps in Durban were showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Last month, thousands of foreigners sought refuge at camps set up by government following the flare up of xenophobia around the country.
The government and police managed to bring xenophobia under control but there are concerns about the effects of the violence.
Psychologist Gail Womersley said displaced foreigners were struggling to recover from their trauma.
“People are clearly scared; I’ve seen children who are wetting the bed at the age of 9 or 10.”
On Monday there were more than 500 people still housed at the only remaining displacement centre in Chatsworth.
Many of them were unable to return to their countries of origin due to political unrest.
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday said an estimated 3,700 foreigners had voluntarily left the country in the wake of the recent xenophobic attacks.
Hundreds opted to be repatriated back to their home countries.
Gigaba said he expected many of them would return.
“That’s why it was so important for us to take the biometric data and register them.”
At the same time, Home Affairs is finalising a green paper on International Migration and preparing to introduce legislation for a Border Management Agency this financial year.
Gigaba expected the proposed agency to come into effect by 2017.
(Edited by Winnie Theletsane)

May 12, 2015 - Business Permit    No Comments

EU diplomat: Migrants will not be sent back against will

2015-05-11 – News24
New York – Refugees and migrants intercepted at sea will not “be sent back against their will,” the European Union’s top diplomat assured the UN Security Council on Monday, citing a proposed EU maritime operation against the growing wave of migrant smuggling from north Africa.
Federica Mogherini addressed the council as the 28-member EU prepares to start making decisions next week on an operation to identify, capture and destroy boats before they are used by migrant smugglers.
Stressing the urgency of the crisis as migrants continue to set off from the north African coast toward Europe and many die, Mogherini later told reporters that the EU is prepared to take certain steps before the council adopts any resolution authorising the operation – even as a draft was expected to circulate to all 15 council members within hours. She would not say what those steps are.
Concerns remained even among some council members that the migrants themselves will be harmed, sent back or not be allowed to seek better lives. “No one is thinking of bombing,” Mogherini said briskly.
When asked about Russia, which has opposed destroying smugglers’ boats, she said she had not found resistance from any council member.
But she said a lot of work remains on the council draft resolution, even though she was “quite confident” about political will in the council for the two main goals: Saving lives and combating the migrant traffickers, some of whom she said are “linked to, and sometimes finance, terrorist activities.”
The UN’s special representative for international migration told the council that about half of the people who reach Europe qualify as refugees. Peter Sutherland also praised a planned EU quota system where countries would share the refugee settlement burden, though finding the required agreement of all EU members is already a challenge. Some countries have already objected.
The EU’s executive Commission was to propose the plan Wednesday as part of a strategy to help frontline countries Italy, Greece and Malta cope with thousands of migrants. France’s top security official on Monday said his country supports the plan.
Mogherini said the “new agenda for migration” to be addressed Wednesday would also do more to increase search-and-rescue operations and allow for more legal pathways into Europe. Again, she did not give details.
“We know we have to tackle all aspects of this tragedy,” she said, but she also argued that “dismantling traffickers… is a way of saving lives.”
The crisis centers on Libya, which has fractured into two competing governments, and parts of the proposed EU operation on shore and in territorial waters would require permission from Libyan authorities. Mogherini said she met earlier on Monday with Libya’s UN ambassador, who last week largely rejected the plan and told The Associated Press that his country had not even been consulted.
She stressed repeatedly that the migrant crisis will require an effort larger than just the EU itself. “Europe has probably for once woken up,” she said. “We need the rest of the world to do its part as well.”