The Citizen (KZN)

No need to panic – minister


- Reitumetse Makwea – reitumetse­

Tourists will not be chased away from SA if their documents have already expired.

South Africa has had consistent growth in the tourism sector in recent years – and with Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi dispelling fears of tourists being deterred by visa issues, the industry is set to make it to its pre-pandemic levels quicker, say industry leaders.

Speaking at a media briefing yesterday after the department came under fire for a circular issued in December, Motsoaledi said the department had no intention of destroying the tourism sector by forcing foreign nationals awaiting visa outcomes to leave South Africa.

The directive detailed requiremen­ts for tourists holding short-term visas issued up to 30 November last year. It mandated that people who had applied for visa renewals, but had not received outcomes by 23 February this year, had to leave SA by 29 February.

This was to avoid them being classified as “undesirabl­e” due to processing delays.

Motsoaledi acknowledg­ed the confusion around the directive and said it was a “misunderst­anding”. Despite efforts to clarify the matter during parliament­ary sessions and the State of the Nation Address debates, some stakeholde­rs were not convinced by the explanatio­ns.

Motsoaledi said: “It was a very unfortunat­e circular that should not have been issued because matters it was trying to clarify could have easily been addressed in the normal course of operations.

“In case your visa expires before the department has responded to your applicatio­n, that receipt will act as an extension of your visa until such time you get a response – positive or negative from the department.

“We approached [Tourism] Minister [Patricia] De Lille to find out how many people approached her as a consequenc­e of action emanating from this circular.

“She said only one case was referred to her department.”

Motsoaledi said the circular had not created major problems with law enforcemen­t for tourists who faced this predicamen­t.

SA Tour Operators’ Nomzamo Dube said “this did not affect tourism as badly as people thought, but we are aware that it might have affected SA’s reputation – with the country ultimately being labelled as anti-tourist”.

“This clarificat­ion will maybe remedy that. For now all we can do is hope this is clear to all parties involved and that those who potentiall­y want to visit SA don’t buy into the ‘undesirabl­e tourists’ news. But for most tourists, they understand the rules and adhere to them,” she said.

The South African Township and Village Tourism Organisati­on (Satovito) noted that feedback from the National Tourism Stakeholde­r Forum indicated positive growth numbers in the industry compared to the previous year.

“As the leading township and village tourism organisati­on, Satovito has observed an increase in domestic tourism activities in villages, townships and dorpies, emphasisin­g the appeal of authentic South African experience­s,” it said.

 ?? Picture: GCIS ?? ‘UNFORTUNAT­E CIRCULAR’. Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says that the directive should not have been issued.
Picture: GCIS ‘UNFORTUNAT­E CIRCULAR’. Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says that the directive should not have been issued.

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