/ 20 November 2007

SA may relax visa requirements for Zimbabwe

Strict visa requirements for Zimbabweans intending to travel to South Africa are set to be reviewed following talks between the two countries, Zimbabwe’s Herald Online reported on Tuesday.

The talks were held under the joint permanent commission on defence and security in South Africa last week, the report said.

”Three committees on defence, state security and public security from Zimbabwe held the talks with their South African counterparts.”

Principal chief immigration officer Clemence Masango reportedly said Zimbabwe had made proposals for a review of some of the stringent visa requirements and SA agreed to look at them.

The issues to be reviewed include the letter of invitation, visa fees, proof of ability to sustain oneself while in South Africa and security deposit fees.

Masango has requested the total abolition of visas between the two countries.

”We called upon our [South African] counterparts not to continue to harden visa conditions as is the case now.”

He said the stringent visa conditions were unnecessary since Zimbabwe did not demand the same requirements from SA travellers.

South Africans travelling to Zimbabwe have enjoyed a free visa facility since 1995, the paper said.

Masango said Zimbabwean travellers would, if the new proposals were implemented, no longer have to prove the ability to sustain themselves in SA at the South African embassy in Harare, but at the port of entry.

He said his South African counterparts would forward the proposals to the Minister of Home Affairs and inform Zimbabwe on the extent of relaxation and date of implementation.

In October last year, SA announced that Zimbabwean travellers needed to pay a security deposit in Zimbabwean dollars depending on their destination, have traveller’s cheques amounting to R2 000 and produce a letter of invitation.

Masango said SA had put in place a 12-month multiple entry visitor’s permit to allow Zimbabwean cross-border traders to travel to SA and conduct their business.

”Before this, they [the cross-border traders] were just treated as ordinary visitors and would find it difficult to conduct business,” he said. During the recent meeting, Masango said South Africa had raised concerns over ”border jumpers”.

He told the Herald that the SA authorities were also considering opening a consular office in Bulawayo. – Sapa