Gigaba heeds summons by Western Cape govt

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba gave in to several requests by the Western Cape Provincial Government to address a public meeting on the new immigration legislation. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba gave in to several requests by the Western Cape Provincial Government to address a public meeting on the new immigration legislation. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba became the first national minister to account to a provincial legislature for a national government policy. 

Gigaba appeared before the Western Cape provincial parliament’s economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture standing committee to explain the country’s new immigration regulations and how they would impact the economy of the Western Cape, and the South African economy at large.

This followed several attempts over months by the committee, which included legally summoning Gigaba to appear in the legislature. Gigaba initially declined to participate in public hearings that were held by the committee earlier this year and instead, in September, he sent a legal delegation led by chief state law advisor, Enver Daniels, who told the legislature that it did not have the powers to summons a national minister.

Gigaba had a change of heart in October and he wrote to the committee availing himself for a meeting saying it may be useful to “forge a better understanding of the immigration regime, and our own sphere of operations”.

‘Cheap politicking’
The ANC, which is in opposition in the Western Cape, apologised to Gigaba for being called to account to the provincial legislature.

Apologising to Gigaba during the meeting, an ANC member of the provincial legislature, Sharon Davids said her party did not support the call to bring him to the legislature and she accused the DA of cheap politicking.

Gigaba told the Mail & Guardian after Tuesday’s meeting that he availed himself “in the spirit of co-operative governance”. “We had said we’ll keep our lines open to engage with whomever wishes to talk to us about the new immigration regulations. Actually, we don’t confine it only to the new regulations, but to any other matters of the department of home affairs because we impact on people in very many ways,” said Gigaba.

No new facts
He said the meeting had been a “useful exercise” but that there were no new issues that had been raised and nothing strong enough that could see the government changing the policy. 

“We think it’s necessary that we engage so that we allay the concerns, which may be there and yet we [get to] emphasise the point that regulations are being implemented as we stand here and will continue being implemented, but we are open to new suggestions.

“If new facts come before us we will consider those facts, at the moment there are no new facts,” said Gigaba.

During the meeting, he disputed the DA’s claims that some industries may collapse due to the new stricter immigration regulations. He said legislation had been seriously undermined by criminal elements, and non-criminal but malicious people, and also undermined by poor administration on the government’s part.

He said the concerns raised did not override the concerns that had necessitated the changes.

Entry into SA
In the meeting, Gigaba explained that the visa regulations are an attempt to balance economic imperatives with national security imperatives. “We want to know who is coming to our country.
We know that some people will be discomforted.” 

Gigaba said South Africa can’t sit naively and think that it is immune from the mass crimes that happen elsewhere, like in Kenya, thinking they could not happen in this country. He made an example of the so-called “Black Widow” and how “she travelled to Kenya to commit a mass crime” through South Africa, using a South African passport. 

He also mentioned how an alleged murderer who is a foreign national strangled another foreigner in a Sandton hotel, adding that the alleged murderer had applied for two visas in two different countries using two different names. “If we had had the requirement that this person applies in person and submit to us their finger prints for our biometric data system, we would have been able to identify them when they went to apply again, and said you have already applied, you have malicious intentions to visit our country and therefore, stop him.”

Critical skills
Gigaba said that they have taken decisions to streamline the visa regime and have decided that people who are here on critical skills visas can get a visa to seek employment in the country for 12 months before they can even get a job and South Africa will now consider their families as a unit, which is not what the country used to do before.

He said they have also taken a decision that companies that are granted corporate visas need to employ at least 60% South Africans or permanent residents, which is contrary to what was the regulation before, which only required that they employ at least five people. 

“We have taken that decision in consideration of the unemployment challenge in South Africa.” One of the examples that Gigaba gave was how the new regime will allow students who are studying in this country to get visas that is aligned to their course of study, instead of having to renew their student visa every two years, students will now have a visa aligned to the number of years of the course they are studying. 

“We have taken regulations that beat into consideration the NDP [National Development Plan], the economic development needs of the country that help South Africa to attract critical skills.”

Gigaba said they were busy drafting a programme that is going to help them recruit the critical skills to bring them into this country.

Request for Bill to be repealed
DA member of the provincial legislature Mark Wiley argued that it was unlikely that the “bad guys” would apply for a visa, they were more likely to come to South Africa with an illegitimate passport. 

Wiley said the economic impact of the new regulations stretched far beyond simple tourism and went to the heart of the ability of the people to conduct business. He said that South Africa, as a developing economy, could not afford to lose out on anybody who was bringing with him or her dollars or Euros. 

Wiley and Economic Freedom Fighters MPL Nazier Paulsen proposed that Gigaba arrange for the Bill, which has already been signed into law, to be repealed and sent back to provincial legislatures for further public comments.

Committee chairperson, Beverley Schäfer said it was alarming that Gigaba failed to recognise that people come to this country largely for leisure and business reasons, and that the country had sufficient legislation to tackle the problem of crime across borders. 

“The question must be asked, how is the amended visa regulations going to address this issue when he also indicated that criminals may get a visa too?” 

Schäfer said the DA was extremely concerned that the new immigration regulations will continue to have a “profound” negative impact on all sectors of the economy at large, more specifically the Western Cape regional economy.

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