Glitches with authorising passports, says govt

Government on Tuesday admitted there were “some problems” with its passport-authorisation systems that had led to the United Kingdom imposing a visa requirement on South Africans travelling to that country.

“We as a country, and I think the Department of Home Affairs, will be the first to admit that there have been some problems in our ... authorisation system,” foreign affairs director general Ayanda Ntsaluba told a media briefing in Cape Town.

The UK on Monday announced all South African visitors would require a visa, citing a need to “strengthen its borders” as the reason for the move, set to affect about 420 000 travellers.

“Abuse of the South African passport remains a serious concern,” the British High Commission in Pretoria said on Monday afternoon.

In the past, South Africans have enjoyed visa-free entry to the UK. Ntsaluba said it should be accepted there were certain “challenges” South Africa faced when it came to passports.

“Yes, perhaps it’s a reflection on a challenge that we have to some extent been aware of, but we may have different views about whether it warrants the action taken, but we respect this as a sovereign decision of the United Kingdom,” he said.

The visa requirements were “going to introduce an element of inconvenience for South Africans travelling to the UK”.

However, government would continue to engage the UK authorities to “look at how this inconvenience can be minimised as much as possible”.

Responding to a question on media reports alleging South Africa was being used as a transit point if not a base by international terrorists, he said this was a “dramatic claim” and had not been part of the official UK communication to South Africa.

“We can only work on the basis of the statement the UK government has given to us. They have given us their reasons and we have to respect these ... I don’t think there has been any dramatic claim about South Africa being a terrorist base.

“We don’t want to be hysterical about that. If we were to confirm at some point that the UK government indeed has said that, we will discuss it so we can understand the evidence and the basis for that allegation. “But as for now, in terms of what they have said officially to us, they have not made that allegation,” he said.—Sapa

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