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SATSA WC Contends SA Visa Regulations

28 May 2015. Following the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) Western Cape Chapter AGM meeting held yesterday, the SATSA WC Secretariat, Alushca Richie issued the following report:

For months many of us have been waiting with baited breath for the outcome of the new visa regulation. SATSA at National level, through David Frost as well as key tourism industry players, has been lobbying with little success to oppose the new Visa Regulation. Opposition parties, neighbouring country heads and business at large within South Africa have also tried to intervene but it appears as if Minster Gigaba is standing his ground.

As a group of concerned tourism players present at yesterday’s SATSA Western Cape AGM it was agreed via Collin Thaver, the newly appointed Chair of SATSA Western Cape, that we should submit an official class action complaint to the Western Cape Public Prosecutor to investigate and address the Department of Home Affairs and the Minsters Office “draconian visa regulations” which is set to come into force within four days.

The two regulations to be looked into concerning maladministration and administrative injustice include, firstly, the requirement that minors travelling into and out of South Africa need to produce unabridged birth certificates and, secondly, that an in-person Biometrics for international travellers often involves the applicant needing to travel, at cost, within their own country to source a visa centre.

Also addressed via various stakeholders yesterday was the voiced statement that it is completely misleading to say that the tourism industry has been consulted in the implementation of these regulations. “The industry has not had the opportunity to sit down with Home Affairs or the Minister’s Office to unpack the real implications of these regulations and find a positive solution that could benefit all.”

Mark Finkenstein from Capexec Exclusive Tours cc, who has put months of work into filing a Class Action, based on administrative injustice and maladministration, will be taking these complaints to the Western Cape Public Protector so that they can address the aforementioned with regards to the regulations. As an industry we need reply with our support to strengthen this case. There is no cost implication to anyone and is undoubtedly worth a shot.

The Public Protector is prepared to investigate complaints from citizens and organizations of government who are able to demonstrate maladministration or administrative injustice.

Mark Finkenstein has put forward the following three points of administrative injustice on which he feels we can base a class application to the Public protector (and possibly more points that members can think of);

1. The fact that the DHA insisted that Biometric visas be applied for in person at SA embassies in non-visa waiver countries (such as China, India and Russia) from 1 October 2014, knowing full well that DHA do not have sufficient visa processing centres in place in any of these countries.
Mr Gigaba promised that there would eventually be sufficient visa processing centres in all of the countries needing them. As a result of DHA insisting that the in-person visa regulations be put in place from 1 October 2014, with only two SA Embassies in China able to process biometric visas ( one embassy in Russia and two in India), 90% of our fastest growing inbound markets were needlessly destroyed. The Chinese embassies still did not have biometric visa equipment by December 2014.

2. South African citizens travelling abroad with minors have to be in possession of DHA unabridged birth certificates by 1 June 2015. The DHA does not have the capacity to produce these documents within a reasonable amount of time. There are applicants who have waited a year or more for these certificates to be issued while other applicants have been lucky and received their documents within weeks. There is no sustained consistency and the DHA does not hold itself accountable to any acceptable standard of administration in relation to the issuing of these vital documents.

3. The DHA has only just recently issued detailed visa instructions and the regulation is set to be enforced in 5 days’ time. They have also contradicted their own regulations on three separate occasions and as a result South Africans are now totally confused by these visa requirements. Imagine how potential visitors from abroad wanting to visit SA must feel?

Collin Thaver went on to say “if government fails to heed the concerns of the industry, we run the risk of losing international visitor interest in our country and many businesses are sure to close shop leaving masses unemployed as a result. So let’s join forces to challenge this as a united structured tourism body and as business leaders”

Any enquiries, suggestions or inputs can be emailed to wc@satsa.co.za