Clar­ify em­i­gra­tions to lure in­vestors

CityPress - - Voices -

Icon­grat­u­late you on your re­cent ap­point­ment as home af­fairs min­is­ter. I have no doubt that you have the in­tel­lec­tual acu­ity, ex­pe­ri­ence and strength of per­son­al­ity to move peo­ple into the realm of ex­cel­lence.

But more than any­thing, I hope that you con­tinue in the foot­steps of Madiba. I hope you will heed Madiba’s call for African unity, mo­bil­ity, and free­dom of move­ment of its peo­ples. The time has come for a for­ti­fied South Africa to let down its draw­bridges, and to trans­form it­self into an au­then­tic, open and mod­ern con­sti­tu­tional democ­racy.

Im­mi­gra­tion is the barom­e­ter of the ex­ec­u­tive mind­set, a re­al­ity of which you are no doubt aware. But if im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy is go­ing to bring South Africa back to where it started in 1994, a num­ber of is­sues re­quire ur­gent ad­dress.

First and fore­most, we need an im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that not only fa­cil­i­tates, but en­cour­ages the in­flow of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment (FDI). Com­pared with other African coun­tries, South Africa re­mains weak in this area. The coun­try’s 38% in­crease in FDI in­flows in 2016 is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of only mod­est growth, reach­ing a rel­a­tively low $2.4 bil­lion (R33.2 bil­lion). This in­crease must also be seen in the con­text of 2015’s dire in­flow lev­els, which showed a 69% drop in FDI from the pre­vi­ous year, to $1.8 bil­lion – the low­est level in 10 years.

But FDI goes beyond short­term cap­i­tal. Our im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy should be tar­get­ing smart money, hu­man re­sources and their cap­i­tal. In other African economies, FDI is the largest cre­ator of em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, es­pe­cially in small to medium-sized busi­nesses. South Africa has failed to im­ple­ment rules that re­duce the ad­min­is­tra­tive bur­den on busi­ness visa ap­pli­cants as the cur­rent regime has failed. Ob­tain­ing a busi­ness visa is too bu­reau­crat­i­cally oner­ous to make its scheme work­able. For­eign in­vestors want and need a speedy and flex­i­ble im­mi­gra­tion en­vi­ron­ment that draws FDI and en­trepreneur­ship from the rest of the world.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum’s Global Com­pet­i­tive­ness Index (2016-2017), an in­ef­fi­cient gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy, re­stric­tive labour reg­u­la­tions and an in­ad­e­quately ed­u­cated work­force are the top three most prob­lem­atic fac­tors for do­ing busi­ness here. South Africa is ranked 47 out of 138 coun­tries, just one po­si­tion above Rwanda.

South Africa no longer com­petes for in­ter­na­tional talent be­cause ob­tain­ing work visas has be­come too dif­fi­cult. South Africa has for many years suf­fered from a brain drain, the ex­tent of which has not been ac­cu­rately cap­tured by of­fi­cial em­i­gra­tion statis­tics. Stats SA recorded a to­tal of 92 612 peo­ple (among them, 20 038 with pro­fes­sional qual­i­fi­ca­tions) who em­i­grated be­tween 1989 and 2003 to the UK, the US, Canada, Aus­tralia and New Zealand. Statis­tics on ar­rivals from South Africa in these des­ti­na­tion coun­tries dur­ing the same pe­riod re­veal that 368 829 (among them 80 831 professionals) ac­tu­ally em­i­grated.

A lib­eral im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy is an ob­vi­ous – al­beit par­tial – so­lu­tion to South Africa’s skills cri­sis. In­stead, bu­reau­cratic bar­ri­ers to the in­flow of mi­grants have been erected.

One of the prin­ci­pal aims of South Africa’s Im­mi­gra­tion Act, as stated in its pre­am­ble, is the pre­ven­tion and coun­ter­ing of xeno­pho­bia. Yet xeno­pho­bia, or an an­tipa­thy to­wards for­eign­ers, is re­flected in the num­ber of ad­verse de­ci­sions taken by home af­fairs of­fi­cials at for­eign mis­sions and at the depart­ment alike. I urge you to cul­ti­vate an en­vi­ron­ment where con­sti­tu­tional and ad­min­is­tra­tive law pre­cepts are re­spected and ap­plied.

Since South Africa’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem is a regime of law, the patent lack of education of of­fi­cials deal­ing with ap­pli­ca­tions has given rise to a dan­ger­ous de­gree of ad­min­is­tra­tive chaos. South Africa sim­ply can’t af­ford to lose talent, or to de­ter the in­flux of ex­cep­tion­ally skilled for­eign­ers to fill skills deficits in our econ­omy. Cre­at­ing a school for im­mi­gra­tion in­struc­tion in which of­fi­cials are ed­u­cated on the statu­tory schemes con­tained in South Africa’s Im­mi­gra­tion Act would as­sist in over­haul­ing South Africa’s for­eign mis­sions to act as show­cases for the coun­try, rather than seats of an­tag­o­nism and xeno­pho­bia.

In re­cent years, I have wit­nessed an in­creas­ing de­fi­ance of the ju­di­ciary, the bill of rights, and the rule of law by the di­rec­tor-gen­eral and his man­age­ment. Since for­mer home af­fairs min­is­ter Man­go­suthu Buthelezi was at the helm, the ethos of painstak­ingly ad­dress­ing ev­ery con­cern within a lib­er­alised and ex­act­ing con­sti­tu­tional con­text has not been re­peated. I have asked my­self whether this truly re­flects the spirit of our pres­i­dent and his Cab­i­net.

You hold the keys to restor­ing and im­prov­ing our coun­try’s global com­pet­i­tive­ness, and I be­lieve you are armed with the ex­per­tise to do so. I en­cour­age you to stead­fastly con­tinue the work of for­mer home af­fairs min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba in the draft­ing of a white pa­per that ad­dresses the weak­nesses of our cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion regime, and I urge you to bring clar­ity and pre­dictabil­ity to our im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem as it is ap­plied glob­ally by South Africa’s con­sular mis­sions through­out the world. Sin­cerely, Gary Eisen­berg, found­ing mem­ber of Eisen­berg & As­so­ciates, who ad­vised on the Cab­i­net draft of the Im­mi­gra­tion Act in 2003, which formed the foun­da­tion of South Africa’s cur­rent im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem

Hlengiwe Mkhize

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