Tourism industry responds to Home Affairs criticism; Urges Deputy President to suspend visa regulations

At a press conference today (Oct 1) at the Indaba Hotel in Fourways, Johannesburg, the statement below was issued by member associations of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA).

(To read all the press coverage, click here.)

Addressing the conference were:

David Frost: CEO, SATSA
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO, FEDHASA
Sandile Ntseoane, GM, SAVRALA
Michi Messner, BARSA
Donovan Muirhead, Chairman, NAA-SA
Adriaan Liebetrau, CEO, SAACI
Otto de Vries, CEO, ASATA

Also on hand was Lorna Lloyd, CEO of the Jewellery Council of SA and Charles Drewe, Hotel Operations Manager of the Indaba Hotel and chair of SATSA’s Gauteng Chapter.

It is with great disappointment that the member associations of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) note the recent outpouring of criticism levelled against the tourism industry by senior officials from the Department of Home Affairs. This is particularly concerning in light of the fact that an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) process, chaired by the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, is currently underway.

As CEO of the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA), David Frost, states: “The members of the TBCSA elected to respect the IMC process convened by the President and remained silent while the Committee deliberated on issues relating to the new visa regulations. Sadly, the IMC has not been accorded the same level of respect by the Department of Home Affairs, which has taken to the press, stakeholder workshops and social media to air its views.”

Recent examples include:
• Speaking at a media briefing on 27 September, Minister Malusi Gigaba said that opposition to the new visa regulations had been based on “lies and cooked-up figures and surveys that have no credibility whatsoever”. He went on to state: “I think our tourism sector has not been selling South Africa as well as they should (sic). They should be selling the country on the basis of what it offers travellers, not on the basis that it’s easy for somebody to enter South Africa with a child, unnoticed.” He expressed the same sentiments on Twitter.

• Department of Home Affairs Deputy Minister, Fatima Chohan, told attendees at an immigration regulations compliance workshop that she did not expect wholesale changes to be made to the regulations. This despite the fact that the Deputy President is yet to announce the findings of the IMC process.

• Minister Gigaba has repeatedly accused the tourism industry of putting profits ahead of child safety, a stance that he echoed during a live interview with Radio 702’s John Robbie.

“We have reached the point where this relentless barrage of unsubstantiated accusations cannot go unanswered, particularly given that tourism jobs are being lost every day that this process drags on,” added Frost.
The member associations of the TBCSA urge the Deputy President to consider the following:
• Minister Gigaba has stated that his department expected tourism to drop as a result of the visa regulations. We would expect that government policies would dictate that in the case of anticipated losses, these would be weighed up against the benefits in a comprehensive economic impact assessment, following which government could collectively make a decision on the matter. It is clear that this process has not been followed, despite tourism being a priority sector.

• The Department of Home Affairs is unable to consistently implement its own regulations. The new dispensation announced for children from Lesotho is evidence of this, along with the fact that Chinese tourists are required to apply for visas in person, even though the biometric equipment is yet to arrive in the country a year after the requirements came into force.
“Overwhelming evidence from multiple reliable sources points to the disastrous impact these ill thought-out and draconian requirements are having on the tourism industry (see overleaf for details). We cannot afford to waste another moment. The economy has already suffered devastating losses as a result and thousands of jobs are on the line. We urge the Deputy President to scrap these requirements before any more damage is done and to set up inclusive structures to look at workable alternatives that balance security with economic growth,” concludes Mavuso Msimang, Chairman of the TBCSA.

‘’We would also respectively request that the IMC be allowed the space for their deliberations without inflammatory statements being made that only heighten tensions between the various stakeholders and frustrate efforts for an appropriate outcome.”

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