Home Affairs immigration head denies knowledge of Gupta visa ‘corruption’

12/09/2018 – News 24
The Department of Home Affairs’ deputy director general of immigration services has denied any knowledge of corruption relating to the issuing of the Gupta dynasty’s visas to stay in South Africa, as alleged in the GuptaLeaks emails.
“I did not know anything, except of course what I have read in the leaked emails,” Jackson McKay said about the thousands of pages of emails between various members of the Gupta business empire.
Their companies included Sahara Computers, the now closed ANN7 television channel and The New Age newspaper.
“We will investigate these matters and get to the bottom of it,” said McKay.
He also told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs that he had never accepted a gift from anyone, nor done any favours for or received any from the multitudes of people who call him for urgent help on his phone number, which is listed on the department’s website.
The committee sat for the second phase of its investigation into the naturalisation of members of the Gupta family and the issuing of visas issued to workers who came from India to set up its television station operations.
The committee also wants to know how some of the Guptas were naturalised as South African citizens, and whether Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba may have acted inappropriately in granting this to them.
Committee chairperson Hlomani Chauke asked McKay to look “deep” into himself and swallow his pride to share anything he knew about visas issued to the Guptas and their associates, as well as employees from India.
Chauke said at the meeting, which ran late into the night, that the committee was not a disciplinary inquiry but that it needed to get to the bottom of the claims.
“If we fail, the only option to ask Parliament to refer this report to the Zondo [state capture] commission[ of inquiry], and then [Deputy chief Justice Raymond] Zondo and his investigators will sit on you,” said Chauke.
He indicated earlier that they would go as far back as 1993 and would call apartheid-era home affairs minister Danie Schutte to answer questions.
This was because Atul Gupta was the first of the family to arrive in South Africa – in January 1994 – before the first democratic elections.
McKay replied: “I have no pride to swallow chairperson. I am always truthful. What I am sharing with you here is what I know.”
He said the allegations involving the department, raised in the GuptaLeaks and being raised before the committee, were a symptom of problems in the Department of Home Affairs and that he wished he had the resources to investigate every single visa issued, for compliance.
However, he could shed some light on some questions posed by MPs.
He explained that people who come to South Africa for business, needed to be specific about their visas because a plain business or tourist visa did not allow work for pay.
The visas for ANN7’s India-sourced technical start-up team were issued to them, instead of making the company apply for local expertise, on the grounds that they were already familiar with the company’s operations in India.
They received the visas because a company called Essel Media, which owns Zee TV in India, bought shares in Infinity Media, which is registered in South Africa as a holding company of ANN7 and The New Age.
Because Essel media bought shares in Infinity, their technical workers qualified for intra-company transfer visas, granted on the basis of the affiliation between Essel and Infinity.
The people were then “transferred” from the holding company in India, to the South African company. These visas last for four years and because they brought specific skills there was no need for their positions to be advertised to locals.
He did not have the overall numbers of visas issued for all Gupta company associates and family from India at hand since Atul’s arrival. This would have to be investigated by the department’s officials in India, who would have to do a manual paper search for their applications. This can take up to three months.
However, he could say that Ajay Gupta was given a visa in terms of the old Aliens Control Act which allowed work permits to hire people, invest, and run a business, or be a partner in a business.
Atul Gupta arrived on January 11, 1994 at the now-OR Tambo International Airport on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities.
Rajesh Kumar Gupta arrived on April 22, 1998 on a visitor’s visa for non-remunerative business activities.
There was a record of Rajesh Kumar Gupta and his family leaving South Africa several times between the expiration of his original work permit on April 21, 1999, and the approval of the conversion to a business permit on August 29, 2000.
He said he could also shed some light on the number of employee visas issued via a “raid” by the department at the company’s premises in Midrand in 2013.
There were 40 foreign national employees – 31 held the intra-company transfer visas and nine had visitors’ visas.
These visas were not processed in South Africa.
In a presentation by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) earlier in the day, it was alleged that there were emails from the GuptaLeaks that purported to show that two officials were transferred to India when the department had no budget, or a need for extra staff there.
During this time an employee of the Guptas’ companies, Ashu Chawla, allegedly managed to expedite several visas through a relationship with some of the department’s employees.
McKay said this would need to be investigated because there should be no direct contact between a visa applicant and the official who processes it to avoid abuse of the process.
The department also uses the services of a company called VFS to facilitate applications and this provides a buffer. This contract ends in December.
Vusi Mkhize, former deputy director general for civic services, said in his written reply that Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba had the authority to grant early naturalisation under exceptional services, in terms of the Citizenship Act.
He said it was common cause that Ajay Gupta and his family approached Gigaba over this, but they were not treated differently.
He said the Gupta family met the “substantive” requirements for naturalisation.
Atul Gupta attained “status” in 2002 and Rajesh Gupta in 2006. They did not have to renounce their Indian citizenship because this requirement only came into effect in 2013 and the law did not apply retrospectively.
Ajay Gupta is not a citizen and did not attend any naturalisation ceremony.

Monica Maphumulo’s life on hold because she is ‘dead’

Monica Maphumulo’s life is at a complete standstill.
Home Affairs records indicate that Maphumulo is deceased and the cause of death is natural, but the Pretoria North mother is very much alive and healthy.
She shared the horrors of her story with the Pretoria News.
The 26-year-old said she can’t even register her son who’s now eight months old as her ID is required.
A death certificate indicating that she passed away in May 2015; with the same ID number as the one in her ID book was shown to the Pretoria News.
She recalled the day she found out about her “mysterious demise” last year, when she had gone to withdraw money.
“I went to the tellers to take out money and I was told “we can’t give you the money because you’re deceased.”
I went to Home Affairs and they told me that maybe someone had a duplicate ID.
“It’s been almost a year that I’ve been trying to sort this thing out. I filled out forms and was told to give it six months but still nothing.”
“I had savings but I can’t even access the money since all my bank accounts are frozen. I can’t even apply for a job, my life has stopped,” she said.
Maphumulo said she had gone as far as providing Home Affairs with her grade 1 progress report to prove that she was still alive.
“I got a copy of my birth certificate, injection card, discharge card, a letter from my primary school but they also want a copy of my register which the school no longer has,” she said.
The Department of Home Affairs is yet to comment.

Gupta naturalisation inquiry to go as far back as 1993

CAPE TOWN – A parliamentary inquiry into the naturalisation of the Gupta family has entered its second phase with witnesses being called on Wednesday to explain the circumstances under which family members were granted South African citizenship.
Former and current Home Affairs officials who were central to granting visas and work permits to the family’s associates and employees are due to testify.
Chairperson of Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee Patrick Chauke says the first phase of the investigation has highlighted the need to broaden the scope of the inquiry beyond the family of Ajay Gupta.
His family’s application was originally rejected because they had not been in the country long enough.
It was approved on appeal, but Ajay Gupta refused to denounce his Indian citizenship.
“The inquiry will not only focus on naturalisation but also on when did the Gupta family members arrive in South Africa. So, it will take us back to 1993. We’re going to be dealing with the first person that entered the country during that year,” says Chauke.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) is first to make a presentation to the inquiry from information contained in the so-called Gupta leaks emails.

Moody’s upgrades outlook for SA banks to stable

Sep 11 2018 – Fin 24
Moody’s has changed its outlook for SA’s banking system from negative to stable, the ratings agency said in a report issued on Tuesday.
Moody’s rates seven commercial banks in SA, which accounted for 9% of banking assets as at December 2017. The rating for banks is currently below investment grade at Baa3 with a stable outlook.
In its report, Moody’s said that the bank’s creditworthiness will remain resilient over the next 12 to 18 months, but banks will face weakening operating conditions.
“Slow economic growth will hold back the banks’ new business and revenues,” the report read.
Economic growth is expected to remain weak given poor consumer spending, volatility in emerging market currencies as well as inflationary pressures. Moody’s recently cut the growth forecast for 2018 from 1.5% to between 0.7%.
Moody’s is of the view that bank’s credit risk profile and problem loans to remain stable until the end of 2019. SA banks’ capital is also expected to remain strong for the period. Further, funding and liquidity conditions will be stable.
The challenging operating environment will suppress business opportunities and loan demand, exerting pressure on banks’ loan quality. Loan growth slowed to 2.1% in May 2018, compared to 2.5% in May 2017, according to Moody’s.
“We expect growth to remain subdued in 2018/19 because of weak demand, particularly as growth in mortgage loans has slowed. We also believe that banks have further tightened their lending criteria in response to the weak economy, which will further dampen loan growth by making it harder for borrowers to take on new credit,” Moody’s explained.
The lower loan growth is likely to impact net interest income. Increased costs for staff and digitalisation will also drag down net profitability, the report read.
Overall, earnings will be strained by slower revenue growth and higher operating expenses.
Although profitability has remained resilient, the low economic growth, rising competition from larger banks and fintechs could curb pricing power, and drive down revenue growth.
Moody’s expects return on assets and return on equity to come under pressure in 2018/19.

ID fraud: ‘He is not my husband’

ID fraud: ‘He is not my husband’
Pretoria News / 7 September 2018,
HOME Affairs records wrongfully indicate that Winnie Nkuna is married with three children.
THE 31-year-old who was married without her consent said she was bitter that somebody was still using her ID fraudulently.
Home Affairs records indicate that Winnie Nkuna has been married since 2015 to a man she doesn’t know and has three children with him.
But in real life, the Soshanguve resident has never been married and has just two children.
In April, the Pretoria News reported that on finding out that she was married and had three children, Nkuna immediately turned to Home Affairs, but she has yet to be assisted.
Nkuna, who works as a security officer, said she was shocked to learn that she was married when she had gone to renew her Securities Industry Regulatory Authority certificate. She said she was informed her ID had been cloned.
She said yesterday that when she last went to Home Affairs last month to check on the progress she was told “it is in process”.
She recalled the day she found out: “It was in 2015 when I learnt that I was married to a 67-year-old Thomas Mathebula. I had gone to renew my certificate and when they took my fingerprints, the picture of the woman who appeared on the system was not me.
“I immediately went to Home Affairs in Ga-Rankuwa to enquire.” There she was advised to apply for the smart card ID, which she did, but the card was not issued.
Nkuna, a security guard contracted to the City of Tshwane, said she was informed that the department could not issue the ID card under her surname because she was married.
The mother of two said she has been getting calls from retail stores non-stop.
“I got calls from stores saying I had ordered something from them, and that I will be receiving my order soon. The City is insourcing contracted guards, but I can’t apply since I don’t have an ID.”
Departmental spokesperson Thabo Mokgola said the matter would be resolved by the end of this week.

Refugee Reception Offices still not fully functioning, MPs told

5 September 2018 – Groundup

Port Elizabeth office not receiving new applicants, two years after deadline set by court
More than two years after a deadline set by the courts, the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Office is still not fully operational, MPs were told last week.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on Home Affairs, Department of Home Affairs officials acknowledged that although the Cape Town Refugee Reception Office had started slowly receiving new applicants, the Port Elizabeth office was not yet open for newcomers.
The reopening of the offices follows two court rulings. In March 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeals ordered Home Affairs to reopen the Port Elizabeth Refugee Reception Centre. Home Affairs had until 1 July 2016 to comply.
The same court ruled in September 2017 that Home Affairs must reopen and maintain a fully functional refugee reception office in Cape Town by the end of March 2018.
But neither office is fully functioning, MPs heard.
According to Home Affairs, instead of 62 people in the Port Elizabeth office, there are only 22 officials, with two Refugee Status Determination Officers. The estimated cost of seconding officials was R450,000 a month and R4 million a year would be necessary to fund only the critically important posts, Jackson Mackay from the department said.
MP Tandiwe Elizabeth Kenye (ANC) asked what the department’s recruitment strategy was to fill in the vacancies.
Mackay said the department’s budget was a constraint. “The 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,” said Mackay.
Hlengiwe Octavia Mkhaliphi (EFF) asked if the department had applied for an extension from the courts.
Mackay said the department was complying with the court orders by reporting to the court on progress.
Acting Director-General Thulani Mavuso said the Port Elizabeth office should be ready to receive new applicants by the end of October 2018. He said furniture and information technology were being installed.
To operate at full capacity the office had to rely on secondment from the Desmond Tutu and Musina offices which received smaller volumes.
In Cape Town, the staff establishment was up to date with one or two more officials needed. Five computers had been installed for processing newcomers at the old building. The Department of Public Works was still looking for permanent offices for the centre, Mackay said.

Demand for affordable, cross-border payments drives innovation in Africa

Demand for affordable, cross-border payments drives innovation in Africa
3 Sep 2018 – Bizcommunity

The future of payments ecosystems is taking shape in Africa as the continent paves the way for innovation that brings together retail, banking, financial services and mobile technology. It’s being fueled by a drive for financial inclusion – new ways to bring consumers, merchants and entrepreneurs into the formal economy.

“A huge advantage is that in Africa, mobile technology is already a given and a great enabler for payments,” says Hannalie Marsh, general manager of Wirecard South Africa.

She says there is a great demand in Africa for cross-border payments and a need to regulate the payment industry on the continent while at the same time opening it up to include non-banks.

“Across the world, the payments industry is being compelled by regulation to become more inclusive. Retailers and fintech organisations, for example, are being encouraged to provide services historically only associated with banks.

“Traditional banking is expensive and alternatives that keep costs down have to be found, particularly in developing and emerging economies,” says Marsh.
To enable higher levels of financial inclusion across Africa, banks and payments companies must drive solutions allowing small and informal merchants to accept digital payments at a lower cost…
A consolidated platform

She believes a combination of technology, banking and retail on a single, consolidated platform, would solve many challenges.

“Already we are seeing a collaboration between some banks and innovative fintech companies. Banks are just not agile enough to tackle rapid tech development and a large continent like Africa on their own. This is one of the reasons retailers have been so successful in the remittances space – they have outlets in places in remote regions that will never see a bank branch.”

“All these parties are fairly protective of their own space but by contributing what they have – a wide physical outlet network, technology and payments systems, for example, they can collaborate. This way they reach more people and reduce costs. The mobile component is also a significant factor because of its ubiquity on the continent,” says Marsh.

She adds that another big drive globally is for a single digital platform to provide multiple services using the same technology and infrastructure.

“The minute you can offer multiple services off the same infrastructure you can reduce costs dramatically. We have the ability to provide solutions to both individuals and businesses on the same platform which means we can give a set of diverse services to both parties.”
The use of mobile devices to make retail and store payments will act as a driver for financial inclusion of the unbanked in emerging markets…
Learning from Africa

“It’s particularly relevant in African economies. Take the example of an informal trader: a single system that offers them the ability to accept and make payments solves not only their payment challenges but also those of the supplier and customers – everybody wins. The single source – typically accessed by mobile devices – helps build trust around payments and innovation can be applied everywhere those conditions exist.”

Marsh says there is a lot to be learnt from Africa around technology and innovation and how to overcome difficult environments and situations.

“Just as much as we consume the innovation and expertise we glean from global colleagues, so we too bring expertise to the rest of the world. We get to showcase all the things that happen here in Africa which can seem a daunting place to others, but we are taking some of that to the global stage through partnerships and by exposing what we do locally. We are able to develop and improve payment technologies in Africa and apply that expertise elsewhere in the world,” concludes Marsh.