Government Tourism Scam

South Africa charges visitors USD70 for free tourist visa. By Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H.Thome.

Kenyans started reacting sharply to news that they now have to pay a private contractor a massive 5,850 Kenya shillings (697.94 ZAR) for a visa to South Africa, which purportedly is supposed to be free for tourist visitors staying up to 30 days. South Africa maintains that Kenyans remain exempted from visa fees, but that they now have to pay an administrative fee to the contractor chosen by the South African foreign ministry to process visa applications, a company by the name of VFS, come Monday, December 16.

“Forget about the visa being free as they tell us when you have to cough up more than US$70 for processing the application. South Africa should extend the same courtesy to us like they give to our Tanzanian brothers and sisters who can get visa for free on arrival. Why are African countries making it so difficult for other Africans to visit? It is bad enough how we are treated by the Brits, by Schengen [in reference to (part of) the EU’s common Schengen visa] and the Americans who just chew our money even when they deny us visa. But for South Africa to do this, it is like a punishment. They will see how it affects arrivals from Kenya, because that is money no one has budgeted for. And that company, what is it they do which is worth that much money when our visa is supposed to be free? Are they sending us a limo or serving champagne when we drop our applications? That is daylight robbery sanctioned by collaborators in the South African foreign ministry. I want to know what share they take from that money, because if they benefit financially from it, they are in league with rogues to rob us,” wrote an enraged Kenyan when passing the information over the weekend after being notified by his travel agent that unless he got his visa for the upcoming trip to Johannesburg processed immediately, he would have to pay that fee from mid-December onwards.

There was no feedback available why the South African High Commission in Nairobi “outsourced” the visa application service for a short-term visitor visa and yet has retained apparently all other visa application processing in-house. During a recent diplomatic reception attended in Kampala though, one of that embassy’s staff said point blank when discussing the general issue of visa processing for Ugandans that “those visa applicants are often just a nuisance. There are a lot of fraudulent documents they bring, and it causes extra work burden to sort those out. When you hand that process to a third party, they are responsible to submit complete documentation for an application with verified attachments, so the embassy can review it case by case and give or deny a visa,” shedding light on the mindset of embassies and high commissions.

Once the news makes the rounds and more potential travelers are aware of the new added cost of getting their visa for South Africa, not only is a chorus of protests expected, but going by the feedback of one travel agent who responded overnight, this may well encourage travelers to opt for flying to Dubai or the UAE on Kenya Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, or even Ethiopian, or else use a low-cost airline like Air Arabia, instead of traveling to South Africa, and do their shopping in Dubai instead of in Johannesburg. Time will tell no doubt how this will affect the number of visitors to South Africa from Kenya but for now.

Published with acknowledgement to eTN

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