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South Africa reviewing visa regime

BY: Seth J. Bokpe

South Africa is considering a visa regime that makes it easy for holders of valid United States of America, United Kingdom and Schengen visas, from Ghana and other African countries, to travel to the country without visas.

It has also scrapped regulations requiring parents travelling with minors to present an unabridged birth certificate at ports of entry.

The measures including an e-visa regime which is currently being piloted for travelers from New Zealand is meant to double South Africa’s tourist arrivals from its current 10 million visits to more than 20 million by 2030.

“If you have a visa to go to the countries mentioned, then we will say, it is effectively a visa to come to South Africa.

If it is still a valid visa and you have not been blacklisted or not been declared a prohibited immigrant or anything else,” the South African Minister of Tourism, Mr Derek Honekam, said at a media engagement on the sidelines of the 2019 Travel Indaba meeting in Durban, South Africa.

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He said the move would make a huge difference in making South Africa accessible to tourists since there was the potential for growth in some of its markets in Africa particularly, Ghana and Nigeria.

“It may not be the first for most Nigerians travelling to South Africa since those who travel to South Africa must have already been to the UK,” he said.

e-visa priority countries

As part of the reforms, he said the e-visas would be prioritised and extended to some of South Africa’s biggest potential markets—Nigeria, India and China.

Mr Honekam said apart from the e-visa, South Africa intended to do country by country re-examination to determine which countries needed visas to enter the country and which did not.

He said it was the position of the Tourism Ministry that there were anomalies with visa requirements, adding that If the department of Home Affairs had security concerns about certain countries, it would have to make a case for it.

“We have committed ourselves in the AU to support a freer movement of people across the continent.

The point of departure should be which countries are allowed to come to South Africa on visa free basis but there has to be a case for a country that needs a visa,” he said.

Ghana

Currently, only Ghanaian diplomatic passport holders can enter South Africa without visas.

In September last year, the South African Department of Home Affairs announced that it was finalising visa-waiver agreements with some countries including Ghana to make it easier for citizens of the intended countries to travel to South Africa without visas.

Meanwhile, the South African Tourism Minister has said that the country was reviewing its entire visa regime since some of the countries being considered for visa waivers were fairly insignificant to tourism in South Africa.

He cited the case of Belarus as one of such countries that had only 200 tourists coming to South Africa in 2018.

He said South Africa was taking stock of all countries to enable the Department of Home Affairs, for instance,to make a case as to why Ghanaians needed a visa to enter South Africa.

Xenophobia

On xenophobia, he said, the government was committed to fighting the attacks which were mainly as a result of unemployment.

“We remind our people that the freedom we have today would not be possible had it not been the support of these African countries.

It is political education that is the critical thing, knowing that it can easily flare up when you have large numbers of unemployed South Africans who are under the perception that others are taking over their businesses and jobs.