The unintended consequences of the new visa regulations are temporary and the problem is going to be resolved, according to Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.
He will lead the new inter-ministerial committee appointed to deal with the upheaval that has followed the implementation of the new regulations.
Answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, Ramaphosa said the inter-ministerial committee needed to examine all available evidence on the impact of the introduction of these new regulations and take steps to mitigate any negative consequences.
“Government is aware and very much alive to the concerns that have been raised by a number of people with regards to these new regulations, the process being led by the inter-ministerial committee which the president has asked me to lead aims to address these and all related matters that have to do with the impact of the immigration regulations implementation. And we are going to try and find a rational and implementable method of bringing about a balance so that we do not sacrifice our security but at the same time we also deal with the negative economic impact that has been brought about.”
Under the new visa regulations, which came into effect in June, parents cannot travel in and out of the country with their minors if they do not have an unabridged birth certificate as well as a passport.
In addition to the documents, both parents have to provide consent for children to travel. Consent is required from a single parent only if the other parent did not acknowledge paternity; if both parents’ names are on the unabridged birth certificate, the child cannot travel without both their consent.
So far, the regulations have not been well received and tourism agencies have been vocal about their effects on the industry.
Scoffing Democratic Alliance MPs likened Ramaphosa to comedian Trevor Noah when he said the country was concerned about the unintended consequences of the new visa regulations, which include possible job losses.
Laughing and heckling right through his answers, the party says the government knew exactly what would happen once the regulations were in place, with DA leader Mmusi Maimane disputing that the consequences were unintended.
“Your government was warned about these consequences. We knew upfront that this would result in job losses. Secondly, the numbers that have been used to justify the security measures have been overly inflated and there has been no audit on, in fact, what the level of security threat [is] that requires these regulations.
“Let’s be fair and say that tourism was the only industry that was creating jobs up until recently, when your government decided to intervene,” said Maimane.
Sensitivity of government
Ramaphosa said the appointment of the inter-ministerial committee testifies to the sensitivity of the government to its problems.
“That when it does encounter difficulties or challenges, it will immediately set about in resolving the challenges. We are going to be addressing these issues in the inter-ministerial committee. I would suggest that we give this committee a chance. Following deliberations … an announcement will be made in a way to resolve all these unintended consequences.
“If there is a government that is concerned about jobs in the country, it is the Jacob Zuma government. What we are going through is just a temporary problem, we are going to resolve this problem. I am absolutely sure about that,” he said to cheers and jeers from MPs.
Ramaphosa said the government was responsive and that they would be responding to the challenges.
“I know the opposition MPs don’t believe this, but they don’t because they are not in government. We know what we are talking about.”
The deputy also faced questions on the quality of education in technical and vocational education and training colleges, his official visit to China and the political impasse in the Kingdom of Lesotho.