Archive from June, 2021

High hopes as US revises SA’s risk status

The inbound travel trade celebrated today (June 9) following news that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has moved South Africa from risk alert Level 4 to Level 3.
This follows the landing of the first daily United Airlines flight from New York Newark to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo on Friday (June 4).
The CDC has eased travel recommendations for more than 110 countries and territories, including moving 61 countries from Level 4 to Level 3. This risk-level rating recommends travel for those US citizens who have been fully vaccinated.
According to a Reuters news agency report, the US State Department said many countries had lower ratings “because of the criteria changes or because their outbreaks are better controlled”.
MD of Cape Xtreme Adventure Tours and Cape to Addo Safaris, Barry O’Donoghue, told Tourism Update any move to a lower risk rating would instil confidence in prospective travellers for a destination. “Those who were previously cautious will be more reassured,” he said.
O’Donoghue is currently running three- to five-week adventure tours in the Garden Route for a group of over 200 students from the US. “Some are back home already without incident and they were all highly impressed with the high standards of health and safety protocols,” he said.
Most of the group had been vaccinated but the PCR tests and the protocols practised had given them all peace of mind, O’Donoghue added, highlighting that the success of the US vaccination roll-out would encourage more travel from the US.
Onne Vegter, MD of Wild Wings Safaris, agreed with this assessment, noting that a recent group of US tourists he hosted had also commented on the stringent enforcement and compliance of these protocols by all travel suppliers.
“One woman told me she felt safer in South Africa than she did in the US because we had such strict protocols ensuring her safety.”
He told Tourism Update that most of the enquiries he had had to date were from the US and most of the tourists he had hosted since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic were from the States.
“I expect this to increase with this latest announcement,” said Vegter, adding that United’s new direct daily service to Johannesburg was another competitive advantage. “The Qatar flight via Doha was always full and many have now moved their flights via Europe to the United flight.”
O’Donoghue noted that for his group it was a challenge that there were no direct flights to Cape Town, which meant a lot of juggling and additional expenses but they managed with a few from Europe.
And, Vegter added, another major advantage for the US market was that there was no quarantine imposed on travellers arriving back from South Africa.
‘There is still scope for improvement around the narrative’
While O’Donoghue noted that there also seemed to be less concern about the new variants than there was in other key source markets, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, did express concern that the US State Department was using the same narrative for South Africa as it did for Alert Level 4.
The US State Department advisory reads: “Reconsider travel to South Africa due to COVID-19. Exercise extreme caution in South Africa due to increased crime and civil unrest.”
Tshivhengwa told Tourism Update that while there was crime in South Africa, very few tourists had been directly affected. “Plus, we have invested a lot into addressing this issue and will continue to do everything possible to keep tourists safe.”
According to him, crime is also driven by socio-economic conditions that arise when jobs are lost in a key economic sector such as tourism. “We need tourists to create jobs and the more jobs we can create the lower our crime rate will be.
“So the narrative has to change to instill further confidence in Destination South Africa.”
Tshivhengwa said there was ongoing engagement with the US Embassy, who would advocate for South Africa’s risk level rating to be further reduced and for the narrative to change.

Manager at AG’s office in Pretoria held for allegedly offering Home Affairs official a R3 000 bribe

An employee at the AG’s office has been arrested.
Getty Images
• A general manager at the office of the Auditor-General in Pretoria has been arrested.
• He allegedly offered a Home Affairs official a R3 000 bribe.
• According to the Hawks, it emerged that his ID card and his daughter’s birth certificate were fraudulent.
A general manager at the office of the Auditor-General has been arrested for allegedly trying to bribe a Home Affairs official.
The 46-year-old foreign national was arrested on Wednesday in a sting operation by the Hawks after he allegedly offered the official R3 000.
The man visited the Department of Home Affairs in Randburg to apply for his 14-year-old daughter’s South African passport.
“Upon a systematic interview with the immigration officers, the suspect allegedly failed to produce citizenship rights, which permitted him to possess a South African smart identity card and also a birth certificate for his said daughter,” said Hawks spokesperson Captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu.
Mulamu said the man allegedly pleaded with the immigration officer to return the smart ID and birth certificate in exchange for a bribe.
“Further investigation revealed that both the identity smart card and birth certificate possessed by the suspect were fraudulent. The suspect was subsequently charged with fraud and corruption,” Mulamu said.
The man is expected to appear in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
The Hawks acting provincial head in Gauteng, Brigadier Wendy Mashwabane, applauded police for their work.
“We appeal to the public to report any criminal activities to law enforcement agencies for justice to take its course. Furthermore, we appreciate the immigration officers for not falling prey to perpetrators, who would allegedly break the law to get what they want,” Mashwabane said.
Auditor-General Tsakani Maluleke said the matter was not to be taken lightly.

What is a Ministerial Waiver / Exemption and how does it work

Upon application to the Minister of Home Affairs, the Minister may under terms and conditions determined by him or her allow distinguished visitors or members of his/her family to be administered and sojourn in South Africa and or waive any prescribed (regulatory) requirements for good cause and/or grant any foreigner or category of foreigners the rights of permanent residence for a specified or unspecified period when special circumstances exist justifying such a decision.
S 31(2)(b) provides that the Minister may, upon application, grant a foreigner or a category of foreigners the right of permanent residence for a specified or unspecified period, when special circumstances exist justifying such a decision. The Minister may also exclude a foreigner or a group of ‘identified’ foreigners from such dispensation and may, for good cause, withdraw such right(s) from a foreigner or a category of foreigners. S 31(2)(c) provides that the Minister may for ‘good cause’ waive any prescribed requirement or form, in respect of any such application by a foreigner for the grant of permanent residence.
There are a myriad of circumstances that may arise wherein an applicant may apply to the Minister of Home Affairs to grant certain concessions in terms of section 31(2)(b) or under 31(2)(c) under the Immigration Act (the “Act”) that may pertain either to the acquisition of permanent residence “when special circumstances exist” or “for good cause, waive any prescribed requirement or form”.
The Minister is empowered in terms of the Immigration Act to “waive” any regulatory requirement or form. A foreigner may apply for such waiver on the basis that “good cause” exists for the granting of such waiver.
The term “good cause” has never been defined, either in terms of legislation or by the South African judiciary. In practical terms an applicant must demonstrate that there is compelling justification for the waiving of a regulatory requirement or form, and if the Department of Home Affairs (on behalf of the Minister) determines that a violation of a constitutional right, or an irrational consequence, will arise by a refusal to grant such waiver, waivers are normally granted.
A typical scenario necessitating a waiver under section 31(2)(c) would be where a specific requirement or form is applied to the Minister to be dispensed with.
Here are a few examples of waiver applications:
• A foreigner, sojourning in South Africa, has in the past submitted police clearance certificates from his country of residence of more than 12 months since his 18th One of those countries is Saudi Arabia. Since his last submission to the Department of Home Affairs of his Saudi Arabian police clearance certificate he has never returned to such country. He now intends to apply for permanent residence in South Africa and will, in terms of Immigration Regulation 23(2)(e) require a police clearance certificate from Saudi Arabia. Since he will not be able to acquire a new Saudi Arabian police clearance certificate without, at great expense and inconvenience, returning to that country physically to obtain one, he applies for a waiver from the aforementioned regulatory requirement in relation to a Nigerian ,USA or Saudi Arabia police clearance certificate if perhaps you have not lived there for 10 to 15 years and would have difficulty to obtain same . Such applications have been largely successful.
• A refugee sojourning in South Africa in terms of the Refugees Act wishes to apply for a critical skills work visa in terms of section 19(4) of the Immigration Act. In terms of Ahmed and Others v Minister of Home Affairs and Another [2018], ZACC 39 an asylum seeker or refugee sojourning in South Africa must first apply for a waiver from the requirements of Immigration Regulation 9, which includes the requirement that any temporary residence visa applicant must submit his or her application in person to a foreign South African mission where such applicant ordinarily resides or holds citizenship. Once the waiver from such requirement is granted only then may the asylum seeker or refugee proceed to submit an application for a temporary residence visa application in South Africa. These waivers must ordinarily be granted otherwise a ruling by the Constitutional Court will be violated.
A regulatory waiver application made in South Africa may take anywhere between 4 – 7 months on average to be processed and adjudicated by the Department of Home Affairs. In order to apply for a waiver the applicant must be in possession of a valid refugee or immigration status.

Why your bank branch doesn’t do Smart IDs

South African banks are eager to expand the availability of E-Home Affairs in South Africa — they are just waiting for the Department of Home Affairs to sign a partnership agreement before they can roll out the service to more branches.
This is according to Nedbank, which was answering questions from MyBroadband regarding the delays it faced in rolling out new E-Home Affairs branches during 2020.
At the start of 2020 — before South Africa recorded its first case of COVID-19 — Absa, FNB, Nedbank, and Standard Bank revealed their plans to expand their E-Home Affairs footprint substantially by the end of the year.
However, only Standard Bank was able to add E-Home Affairs capabilities to some of its branches during the year.
Nedbank told MyBroadband that its roll-out plans were affected by COVID-19, the National State of Disaster and the ensuing lockdowns, but said that the pandemic was only part of the reason for the delays.
“The delays are largely as a result of the finalisation of the partnership agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, and we have not been able to open any more [E-Home Affairs] offices in the last year aside from those already in place,” a spokesperson for Nedbank stated.
Nedbank said it intends to expand its E-Home Affairs offering, but it is waiting on the Department.
“There is big dependency on the Department of Home Affairs finalising a partnership agreement with participating banks that will see banks offering this service as part of their own operating models — using their own staff,” Nedbank said.
“Currently, the [Home Affairs] appointed staff manage and operate dedicated areas within participating banks where they process appointments that are booked via the DHA website.”
A glaring gap in the E-Home Affairs network is the fact that one of South Africa’s largest banks, Capitec, does not offer the service.
The E-Home Affairs system only allows you to book appointments and collect your documents from a bank where you are a client.
If your bank does not participate in the programme, or if your bank does not have an E-Home Affairs branch near you, then you will have to book your biometric data capture appointment at the best available Home Affairs office.
MyBroadband asked South Africa’s big five banks and the Department of Home Affairs why the system was designed this way.
“This decision was informed by the Department of Home Affairs,” Nedbank told MyBroadband.
“This is how the appointment booking process is set up on the [E-Home Affairs] website. It’s the same process for all banks and ensures that it does not create a competitive advantage for any one bank.”
Standard Bank told MyBroadband that this was an agreement between all banks at the time when the e-Channel proof-of-concept — which ultimately became E-Home Affairs — launched in 2015.
FNB didn’t answer the question directly, but said that the E-Home Affairs system has become an essential service that has issued over 251,000 passports and smart IDs through its branches.
“We believe that the consistent expansion of this essential service will provide more customers with convenience by avoiding long queues when applying for their smart IDs and passports,” said the CEO of FNB Points of Presence, Lee-Anne van Zyl.
Absa declined to comment and referred questions to Home Affairs, while Home Affairs and Capitec did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.
However, Capitec previously told MyBroadband that it has no plans to add Home Affairs service desks, as it has smaller optimised premises to help keep its fees as low as possible.