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06 Mar 2008 12:16
The South African Cabinet has given the assurance that everything possible is being done to address the British government’s concerns about the security of South African passports.
“South African passports are among the safest and most secure passports in the world, and that’s the reason why they are being targeted by criminal syndicates,” government communications head Themba Maseko told a post-Cabinet media briefing on Thursday.
He said Wednesday’s regular fortnightly Cabinet meeting had been briefed about the current discussions with the British government over reports that it is considering introducing visas for South African travellers to the United Kingdom.
The discussions are ongoing but there is no indication of when they will make a decision on visas for South Africans.
“The government would like to clarify that there is no decision by the British government at this stage to introduce visas to South African travellers and we would like to reassure South Africans that everything is being done to address the British government’s concerns about the security of South African passports,” Maseko said.
According to a recent survey, South African passports are among the top five most secure in the world, he said.
This means South African passports are highly regarded internationally, making them popular with criminals.
“But we know that there have been major security concerns. There have been reports of blank passports being found in the United Kingdom.”
The government will continue introducing additional security measures to ensure that South Africans are not inconvenienced during their travels.
New South African passports incorporating additional security measures will be issued within the next few months.
During questions, a journalist suggested that the Home Affairs Department is the “weak link”, and therefore the likely source of security concerns and stolen passports.
Maseko said the department’s new Director General, Mavuso Msimang, is implementing an “extensive plan” to address corruption and is also upgrading the department’s information technology systems.—Sapa
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