Phiri siblings still struggling to get their IDs from Home Affairs

The Home Affairs Department has been sending the siblings from pillar to post, demanding that they provide DNA evidence that they are related to the woman they call their grandmother.
The North West Home Affairs Department has come under heavy criticism for failing to assist two young men who have been struggling to get their identity documents for years.
The siblings, from Rankelenyane village, near Mogwase, were forced to collect DNA from their grandmother, who unfortunately died earlier this month.
The department insists that it requested that DNA tests be conducted to prove that they were related to their grandmother.
The Phiri siblings bid farewell to their only caregiver. Their mother disappeared when they were small, making it impossible for the boys to get identity documents.
The Home Affairs Department has been sending the siblings from pillar to post, demanding that they provide DNA evidence that they are related to the woman they call their grandmother.
The department says the aim is to protect the integrity of the population register. The family could not afford to pay for the tests. The siblings finally secured funds but their granny Stephina was admitted to hospital on the day the samples were to be taken. She died two days later.
The siblings’ former teacher, Esther Masinga, who’s been assisting them, says they are disappointed at the department’s conduct.
“The delay caused by the department of home affairs really made them more emotional. Because this has been a struggle since they were in primary school. Now granny is gone. They wanted to do those DNA Tests and another delay occurred due to the raisin funds.”
Social Development MEC, Boitumelo Moilwa, says they will continue to assist the family.
“The DNA has been done. We are just waiting for the results. In 5 weeks when the results come, we are going to take the matter up, expediting the matter with home affairs to make sure that they have the ID documents and the small ones have the birth certificates. But from now onwards, in between. As social development, we’re still going to give them the SRD. SRD is the food parcels that we are going to give them until they receive their IDs.”
Although the family is optimistic that the siblings will finally receive their identity documents, it is sad that their grandmother is not alive to celebrate with them.

Vaccinated US citizens get green light for travel

In a landmark move the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its advisory policy, opening up travel for US citizens that have been fully vaccinated.
The US is one of South Africa’s largest source markets for inbound travel. At present approximately 62 million people in the US, or around 20% of the country’s population, have been vaccinated for COVID-19 and given the green light to start travelling again.
The CDC recommendations now allow fully vaccinated US citizens to travel domestically without the need to quarantine or to test for COVID-19 before or after travel. Its recommendations also allow vaccinated US citizens to travel internationally without the need to quarantine. Vaccinated citizens do not need to get tested before leaving the US unless the destination they are visiting requires it, however they do need to show a negative test result (or documentation of recovery from COVID-19) before boarding a flight to the United States.
The CDC also recommends that these travellers get tested three to five days after international travel. People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the last required dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the CDC’s website travellers should still take steps to protect themselves and others. “You will still be required to wear a mask on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transport. Fully vaccinated international travellers arriving in the Unites States are still required to get tested within three days before their flight and should get tested three to five days after their trip,” advises the CDC.
“The updated guidance does not apply to unvaccinated people. The CDC still advises anyone who hasn’t been fully vaccinated to avoid travel.”
CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA), Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, said that the CDC’s announcement – which endorses the idea that it is safe for vaccinated people to start travelling again – would speed up the recovery of the industry and allow vaccinated travellers to start returning to South Africa.
He said the TBCSA was engaging with government to implement a clear travel policy for vaccinated people, which would remove some of the barriers to travel that were currently required.
“This announcement will be a catalyst to speed up our discussions to allow vaccinated travellers easier access to South Africa,” said Tshivhengwa.
MD of Cape Xtreme Adventure Tours and Cape to Addo Safaris, Barry O’Donoghue, said that anything that removed travel barriers and encouraged people to start travelling again was positive news for the industry.
“The US is one of our largest source markets and we have seen a marked increase in enquiries from this region in the last few weeks, as the US has moved forward rapidly with its vaccination programme.
O’Donoghue said the US tour operators that we are engaging with are upbeat and excited about booking trips to Africa again. “And we have just received the good news that a group of 200 US students will be confirming their booking with us for travel in May and June, which will substantially alter our company’s position. The CDC’s endorsement of travel for vaccinated citizens will surely add fuel to this momentum.”
“We have been lucky that South Africa only has a PCR requirement for travel, as quarantine requirements, which are still in place in many countries, are devastating for forward bookings. PCR test requirements are still cumbersome, expensive and risky to manage though, and if this requirement could be removed for vaccinated travellers it would help both the inbound and outbound industry to recover even faster,” he added.

Advocates slam partner visa English test as a ‘paternalistic’ measure that will keep families apart

Partner visa language test will only affect people who apply after the changes are introduced mid-next year.
The Department of Home Affairs says adding an English language requirement for partner visa applicants would protect people in family violence situations.
• Requiring immigrants who apply for a partner visa to pass an English test would be a “paternalistic” measure that will tear families apart, refugee and women’s advocates say.
The Department of Home Affairs is considering adding a language requirement for partner visa applications. Under the proposal, both the person applying for the visa and the person sponsoring the visa would have to pass the English test.
A consultation paper issued by the department says the measure would protect potential victims of violence by encouraging them to learn English.
“Migrants who do not have sufficient English language skills may be more vulnerable to family violence and other exploitation,” the paper states.
“They are less likely to have an established support network or be aware of Australia’s laws and how to seek help.”
English speakers are better able to independently seek help in emergency situations such as family violence at home, it says.
But the Australian Women Against Violence Alliance (AWAVA) and the Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) have slammed the proposal as paternalistic.
“This language creates a false association between domestic and family violence and non-English speakers,” said RACS lawyer Hannah Gray, who co-ordinates the centre’s Women at Risk program.
It also “makes the unsupported claim that the way to combat such violence is by making it more difficult for non-English speaking partners to obtain visas and be reunited with their families”, she added.
Ms Gray said family violence occurs across all cultures and language groups, and it was “highly reductive” to suggest the problem was exacerbated by survivors’ English skills.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the government was committed to providing support to victims of family violence regardless of their language skills.
They said public consultations would inform the settings and implementation of the policy.
RACS consulted with extensive specialist women’s services, who all confirmed they are “strongly opposed” to the English language requirements.
“For these groups, the suggestion it was the lack of English of survivors of violence is seen as just another form of victim blaming,” Ms Gray said.
AWAVA’s program manager, Tina Dixson, said women on temporary visas need to be supported to access essential services when they’re in crisis.
Ms Gray added that an English test would create barriers and delays to family reunions for refugees, and in some cases completely prevent families from being reunited.
“Family reunification is already extraordinarily difficult. This proposal is yet another hurdle adversely impacting the lives of refugees in Australia,” she said.
The organisations have penned a joint submission to the department expressing their strong opposition to the idea.
The reforms were announced as part of the 2020-21 federal budget. Submissions on the proposal closed on 31 March.
The Department of Home Affairs did not respond to questions.

VFS Global issues update on visa application operations in India

VFS Global, the visa outsourcing and technology services company, has issued an update on restarting visa application services in India since June 2020.
Currently, the visa application process (in various categories) for over 40 governments has resumed at select visa application centres across India.
“Our Visa Application Centres across India remain open as of April 7, 2021, though timings and days of working may vary, according to pandemic-related regulations. Please check for details. Real-time updates are also posted on our social media channels and the Covid-19 Customer Advisories page,” VFS Global said in an official release.
Following is the information on visa operations as of March 31, 2021:
Country Visa Categories Cities Restart Date
Austria Category D and pre-approved C visa applications Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata July – September 2020
Belarus All Visa Categories Mumbai and New Delhi July – September 2020
Belgium Category D and pre-approved C type Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Kolkata July – August 2020
Canada Family, Permits, Students Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Jalandhar, Chandigarh and Kolkata November – December 2020
China Business Category New Delhi July-20
Croatia Category D Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata July – September 2020
Cyprus C visa categories (Pre-approved from High Commission) Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi, Hyderabad and New Delhi October – November 2020
Czech Republic Czech and EU family members, Entry in the interest of the Czech Republic, International Transport workers, Diplomats and Officials of International organizations, Seasonal workers, For employment in health and social services only, in urgent emergencies, for employment – food production workers only, for employment – qualified workers only (if the conditions of these Programs “The High qualified worker” and “The Key and scientific workers” are met) Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi and Hyderabad September-20 –
Denmark Residence permit, Employment, Dependent, Approval cases, Category D, specific purpose (business, etc.) Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, New Delhi and Kolkata June – September 2020
Dominican Republic Business, Work and Resident visa New Delhi, Mumbai June 2020
Estonia Category C and D Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata July – August 2020
Finland Resident Permits, Visas (Pre-approved from Embassy) New Delhi November 2020
France Category C and D Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Kolkata August-20
Georgia Long Term Visa for Business and Family visit (post approval from Ministry) and student visa
be accepted Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, New Delhi and Kolkata October-20
Germany Category C (with prior approval) and D visa (seafarers, transit, employment and student, Blue Card, PhD) after approval of submission and D-visa stamping Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata July – August 2020
Hungary Pre-approved cases from embassy New Delhi November 2020
Italy Re-Entry Visa, Category D, Short term Students, Seafarer, Transit, Visit to family (immediate family member), Business (With prior approval) Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata July-20
Ireland Student, Long – stay categories Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Kolkata July-20
Japan Long term and Business visa Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kochi, and New Delhi September – October 2020
Latvia Category D Mumbai, Kochi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai and New Delhi August 2020
Lebanon All Visa Categories (BAU) Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Kolkata December-20
Lithuania Category D Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata August 2020
Luxembourg Category D Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, New Delhi and Kolkata July – September 2020
Malta Pre-approved case for Medical Staff, Humanitarian case and High skilled professionals Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Hyderabad February 2021 – March 2021
Malaysia Single Entry Visas Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and New Delhi July – September 2020
MEA Attestation and Apostille of personal and educational documents Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad September-October 2020
Morocco All Visa Categories except tourist visas Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata January 2021
New Zealand Long-stay and other categories (postal applications only) New Delhi August 2020
Nigeria All visa categories Mumbai September-20
Norway Residence permit and pre-approved Category C Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, New Delhi and Kolkata June – September 2020
Poland Category D Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, New Delhi and Kolkata July 2020
Portugal E6 for holders of expired Portuguese residence card, D6 for holders of expired Family Reunification D6 visas, Category D and pre-approved Category C Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Kolkata June – September 2020
South Africa All visa categories Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata September – October 2020
South Korea Seamen Short term, Work Permit (C4) and Long-term applications New Delhi, Kolkata June 2020 – March 2021
Sweden As per Embassy’s Approval Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Kolkata October-November 2020
Switzerland Category D and pre-approved Category C Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Kochi, New Delhi and Kolkata July – August 2020
Thailand All visa categories Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kochi and Hyderabad December 2020 – January 2021
The Netherlands Seaman, LDR, Re-entry visa, Orange carpet/ Business (With prior approval) Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, New Delhi and Kolkata July – September 2020
Turkey All visa categories Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Chennai, Bengaluru and New Delhi June – September 2020
UAE – DVPC All visa categories (online); 30 day and 90 day tourist visas (in- VAC) Online application in Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kochi June – August 2020
United Kingdom All Visa categories / passport collection Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kochi, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Jalandhar, Chandigarh, Kolkata, and Goa (once a month only) July-20
Ukraine All visas except tourist Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, New Delhi and Kolkata, August 2020 / September 2020
USA All visa categories All India August 2020 – February 2021
Note: Air travel on all routes is subject to government advisories and permissions for air travel may be independent of the visa process.
VFS Global has established standardised protective measures to be followed across centres, including physical distancing and sanitisation, body temperature checks, use of masks and sanitisers, disinfecting high-contact surfaces. Customers with Covid-19 symptoms, including high fever, cough and difficulty in breathing will not be permitted to enter the centre

Why do South African students fare worse at maths than their counterparts in other countries?

South African students are bad at maths compared to other countries. This is clear from results of South African learners in the International Mathematics and Science Study. The results show that South Africa’s performance is far from competitive in relation to other countries.
To try and understand the reasons for this poor performance, I did a qualitative case study focusing on a year-long post graduate course taken by aspiring teachers. I focused particularly on a Post Graduate Certificate in Education with a maths focus offered by one of the country’s university of technologies.
I looked at three key themes – the curriculum and its delivery, partnerships during delivery and policy influencing delivery. My research findings show that the success of the Post Graduate Certificate in Education in preparing maths teachers is not without concern and its delivery, in the case study context, needs rethinking.
My findings underscore earlier research that has suggested that a shortage of competent and confident qualified mathematics teachers is a key contributing factor to the low maths performance of South African school children.
The one-year Post Graduate Certificate in Education offered at South African universities is a key qualification for aspiring teachers. This is taken after completing a diploma or degree in other fields such as engineering, business and hospitality. It offers an opportunity to university graduates to become a professionally qualified teacher in one-year instead of pursuing a career in industry.
My research highlights the constraints identified by students and lecturers of the post graduate certificate programme, in particular as it relates to the teaching of maths.
The first constraint I identified involved inadequate support structures as well as information, communication and technology infrastructure to meaningfully support the ever-increasing numbers of students taking up the course. The numbers have grown exponentially – from 10 in 1994 to 100 in 2014 and then 207 in 2015. In short, the university has been expected to do more with less.
The second constraint I identified was a potential over reliance on using Bachelors in Education content designed to be delivered over four years. This was evident from the statements from lecturers clarifying how they identify and select content to present during lectures.
This is a constraint as the four year Bachelors in Education content is not always suitable for the Post Graduate Certificate in Education context. This indicates a need to develop context specific content to make the best of the one-year post graduate certificate.
The third constraint was a limited partnership to develop professional learning communities. These should ideally involve lecturers and students, university representatives evaluating students during compulsory classroom teaching periods and the teachers in schools hosting students.
The main reason for this constraint appeared to be that most lecturers were part-time as the course was offered in the afternoon or evening. This meant that lecturers and students had limited time to engage. This affected the outcomes and the quality of the course.
Another outcome from the lack of engagement between the part-time lecturers was that lecturers duplicated content offered in other programme modules. Students and graduates noted this as one of their main concerns. Unnecessary duplication is a major problem because the post graduate certificate programme has a limited time-frame of just one year.
The fourth and final constraint was a lack of oversight over university policy stipulations linked to the delivery and assessment of the post graduate qualification.
For example, university policy stipulates that an assessment plan, programme and calendar must be provided to students. Such a document wasn’t provided to students as noted during interviews. Policy also stipulates that students must re-do practical teaching if they miss more than five days during the study period. One student noted that he was absent for a whole week during this period and no one noticed. He was awarded a pass for practical teaching.
My research found that lecturers didn’t follow all the university’s policies. This suggested that they weren’t being monitored by the relevant authorities. This lack of oversight by the university is clearly a major problem.
Next steps
I conclude from my findings that, to become confident and competent maths teachers, graduates who have passed the Post Graduate Certificate in Education need further development and support. If this isn’t provided, South Africa is unlikely to see an improvement in the performance of its school children.

Motsoaledi’s statements on Atul Gupta’s SA passport request are ‘legally flawed’, says lawyer

Atul Gupta is seeking to have his South African passport issued.

The Department of Home Affairs is opposing the application

Gupta’s legal team has filed a court application, seeking an order ompelling the director-general and home affairs minister to furnish his record of decision for refusing the passport.

The lawyer representing one of the Gupta brothers has filed a fresh application, seeking an order compelling the Department of Home Affairs to file a record and reasons for its decision on its refusal to issue his client with a passport. The papers were filed in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria last week.

The respondents in the matter are the director-general of home affairs and Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Atul Gupta, who fled South Africa for Dubai amid corruption allegations,
approached the court in January in a bid to have his South African passport issued.

In his application, he argued that the home affairs director-general’s failure to grant his passport application was unlawful and reviewable. The department is opposing the application.

Speaking to News24 on Tuesday, Gupta’s attorney Rudi Krause said, despite Motsoaledi’s public statements that his client would not be issued with a passport, he had so far not provided the record of decision. He had also not filed an answering affidavit, Krause said.


“The minister boldly said he has taken a decision not to issue Mr Gupta with a new passport [and] now the fundamental problem is, it’s not the minister’s decision… it is the decision of the Director-General.

He said: So, if the minister has taken that decision, we want to see on what legal basis the minister claims to have made the decision which he is not entitled to make in law. “We have found his public statement to be legally flawed,” he added.

The main application was brought in terms of Rule 53 – which determines that an organ of state that takes an administrative decision must provide the court, upon application, with the record of decision, he said. “So, there must be an official record of the decision that the minister took,” he said.

Krause said: It is just reckless of a minister to behave in this fashion. “They [the respondents] have also served us with a Rule 47 notice requiring of Mr Gupta to put up security for costs which we’ve told them we are not going to do. “How can the government expect a citizen of this country who wants to exercise their constitutional right to put up security for costs? We’ve told them in writing, we are not going to put up security for costs. [They should ] bring an application so that we can argue this in court; they have not brought that application either.” In his affidavit filed in court, on behalf of his client, Krause said: “At the time of deposing to this affidavit, the respondents have still
not filed the record of decision with the registrar. Instead the second respondent (Minister Motsoaledi) is quoted in the media as saying that he has garnered a top legal team and that he will resist any effort by the applicant to be issued with a South African passport.

“Despite the approach that the second respondent [minister] has taken publicly, the respondents remain in default of filing a record of decision and simply complying with the rules of the court as all parties are obliged to do.”


Krause said the DG and the minister were not only in default of compliance with the notice of motion and the rules of court, but also in contempt of court “by virtue of their flagrant disregard for the Rules of this Court”.

Asked for comment on the matter, spokesperson for the Home Affairs minister, Siya Qoza said: “The Department is defending the matter and is giving this application the requisite attention.”
The controversial Gupta family left South Africa for Dubai under increasing pressure due to allegations that they influenced former president Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet appointments.

South Africa has been engaging with the United Arab Emirates for some family members and their associates’ extradition. But according to Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, the UAE was not
cooperating, News24 reported. Meanwhile, in his application filed in January, Gupta said:
My circumstances and business activities in South Africa are well known, and it would not be inappropriate to describe myself as having a public profile. I have been the subject of speculation and reporting by the media, much of which is inaccurate. The simple factual position is that I have not been charged with any criminal offence under South African or any other law, and there had been no credible suggestion that any such charges are to be proffered against me.

SARS busts diplomats for allegedly selling illicit alcohol, cheating taxman out of R100m per month

Foreign diplomats are allegedly selling illicit liquor, cheating SARS of taxes totalling more than R100 million every month.
Investigations by tax authorities have singled out diplomats from Ghana, Rwanda, Guinea, Burundi and Lesotho for being involved in tax crimes involving the sale of duty free liquor.
SARS and **Department of International Relations and Cooperation are working on the introduction of liquor and cigarette quotas to stem the abuse of duty free shopping by diplomats.
The SA Revenue Service (SARS) has uncovered a tax-dodging racket in which foreign diplomats buy large volumes of alcohol at duty free retailers and sell it locally, cheating the tax collector of an estimated R100 million in taxes every month.
News24 can reveal two investigations by SARS, one in 2019 and the otherlast year, singled out diplomats from Rwanda, Lesotho, Ghana, Guinea,Malawi and Burundi for being involved in the scam.
At least three senior officials from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told News24 last year SARS agents caught a German diplomat, inside a duty free retailer, using his credentials to buy alcohol for three friends.
The sources said the diplomats bought the alcohol from Flemingo, Assortim, Ambassador and Nu Africa, all duty free retailers based around Hatfield, Brooklyn and Arcadia in Pretoria.South Africans are not allowed to buy from local duty free retailers.Value-added tax (VAT) and other duties are not levied on goods sold at duty free retailers on the understanding that such goods are being sold to travellers who are taking them out of the country.
The department’s regulations permit diplomats to buy goods from duty free retailers. But the condition is that the goods can only be consumed or used inside the diplomats’ embassies. Tax laws also forbid thereselling of duty free goods in local markets.
SARS and department did not respond to detailed questions, but in a joint statement to News24, they said they were “extremely concerned”.In the statement, department spokesman Clayson Monyela said: “The South African Revenue Service and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation are extremely concerned about the purchase of duty free products such as alcohol and cigarettes, which are then distributed locally.”
How did diplomats cheat SARS .
Monyela confirmed the 2019 investigation. “In light of the above, and in an effort to establish the facts, SARS obtained information from licenced duty free shops regarding the sales values, product quantities and the details of the foreign diplomat to whom such goods have been sold.
“The stores were requested to supply a complete list of all transactions from 1 March 2019 to 30 August 2019. The list had to include the type of sale, embassy involved, diplomat involved and method of payment.”Over six months, the stores had sales to the amount of R423 million.
The 2 200 diplomats spend on average R70.5 million per month at these stores.He said:
The most commonly purchased commodities are rum, whiskey, brandy, liqueurs, cigarettes and cigars. The duty free shops were established with the sole function to service the diplomatic community.In an effort to stem the abuse of diplomatic privileges, SARS and the department have developed new sets of regulations which will introduce quotas and limits to the amount of alcohol and cigarettes which diplomats will be allowed to buy at duty free retailers per month.
“The new regulations will kick in sometime towards the middle of the year. The abuse of the rebates extended to foreign diplomats when purchasing duty free products shows the lack of respect for SouthAfrican laws, diplomatic protocols, immunities and privileges extended to them by Pretoria. They are aware that what they are doing is illegal,” a senior department official said.
A second official said SARS’ investigations showed a number of diplomats were spending up to R5 million per month on duty free liquor, bought to be resold locally.”There are two cases in which two diplomats spent more than R10 million on duty free liquor, each. The executive said at least two diplomats had admitted to buying duty free alcohol with the intention to resell it to local liquor traders.
“It is not even the entire diplomatic community that was investigated, it is just a few diplomats. This means that the problem out there could be far worse than we think.” The diplomats, he added, bought from the four duty free retailers and then on-sold the alcohol to local liquor traders. “It all amounts to excise and VAT fraud. How it works is that, for example, a bottle of KWV, which costs about R155 at the local retailer, would cost about R70 at a duty free retailer. “The diplomats buy at this price and are able to add a mark-up of R20.The local liquor trader buys from the diplomat for R90 and he can still add a R30 mark-up and sell to the public for R120. “He still outcompetes the legitimate retailer, but in all these, SARS is robbed because the goods are not taxed. It is a lucrative business and they become millionaires overnight.”
The third official said while Flemingo, Nu Africa, Ambassador and Assortim did not do anything illegal in that nothing in the regulations stopped them from selling the large volumes they were allegedly selling to diplomats, they had moral questions to answer to. “There is criminality from the diplomats. What they are doing amounts to tax fraud and they are cheating SARS of at least R100 million every month. And this has been going on since 2014. Pretoria should consider charging them or expelling them.” As for the retailers, he added SARS should investigate if they were not accessories to tax crimes.
“Yes, an argument could be made that they didn’t break any laws, but they must have known that the volumes being purchased by diplomats were definitely not for personal consumption inside embassies.”
A former SARS investigator said the investigation into the selling of alcohol bought at duty free retailers to local markets had started around 2014.
The investigation, together with 86 others, stalled and crashed at the height of the SARS Rogue Unit saga which saw more than 200 experienced officials leave SARS. “These were big investigations looking into illicit tobacco, duty free alcohol, drugs and the importation of and exportation of illicit goods.”
*The responses*
The embassies of Ghana, Burundi, Guinea, Rwanda and Malawi did not respond to questions. A spokesman of the German Embassy said authorities were not aware of any complaint laid by the department about the conduct of any of the country’s diplomats. The Kingdom of Lesotho’s High Commissioner in Pretoria, Bereng Sekhonyana, said he viewed the allegations “in a very dim light” and was concerned by their gravity. “Should any of our diplomats be implicated in the alleged scam, the sternest of measures will be taken against this gross abuse of privilege. “Access to duty free liquor and other merchandise at duty free shops is a privilege diplomats enjoy at the pleasure of our host country, the Republic of South Africa. It is not an opportunity for unethical and corrupt self-enrichment by officials who have been honoured to serve in their country’s diplomatic service abroad.” In 2019, Sekhonyana said, his office had received a complaint from the department about an employee working at the Kingdom of Lesotho’s Consulate General in Johannesburg. “She had been detained at the Sunnyside police station and a case was opened against her for unlawful dealing with liquor in a public place; bribery of a police official and possession of suspected stolen property. “The alcohol [quantity unspecified] had been seized by the Sunnyside SAPS as exhibit as well as an amount of R3 500 she had allegedly paid as ‘bribery’. The police did not follow up on the case,” he said.
Nu Africa did not respond to a detailed list of questions. “Nu Africa denies that it has acted in an unlawful fashion, as alleged,” the company said through its lawyer, Marius van Staden.
Rudy Swanepoel, the store manager at Ambassador, said he had been made aware by both SARS and the police about an investigation into the sale of duty free liquor by diplomats. “Ambassador Duty Free has been made aware by both SARS and by the SAPS that they are investigating the selling of duty free liquor by diplomats, but Ambassador Duty Free has not yet been interviewed by SAPS in this regard.” SARS, he added, had conducted a number of audits at the company’s premises and found it to be in the clear.”SARS has instituted several audits into the compliance by Ambassador Duty Free with its tax and customs and excise obligations, and in each case has been found to be in compliance with its obligations and has been given a clean audit. “Ambassador Duty Free has not been fined by SARS or any other authority relating to its sale of duty free alcohol, nor has any of its stocks been seized by SARS during the course of any investigation.” The claim that diplomats have been buying alcohol of more than R1 million in any given month was speculation, Swanepoel said, adding the retailer denied it was complicit in tax-dodging crimes.
Assortim’s Karen Bezuidenhout said: “Please note that Assortim Duty Free operates its diplomatic duty free shop within the legal landscape applicable to such shops. Assortim Duty Free is not under police investigation and SARS monitors the diplomatic duty free shops.” The retailer was operating within the limits of the law, including the Diplomatic Immunities and Privileges Act, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Constitution of South Africa, she added.