The new law announced a few days ago will have severe repercussions on the travel industry in this country.
From the onset I need to make it clear that I support a law demanding that adults travelling with children have documentation confirming that are legally allowed to take those kids out of the country. An unabridged birth certificate is the obvious answer to verify that the children are in fact yours, or that you have the permission of both parents to take the kids abroad. Great idea.
Unabridged vs normal birth certificate.
Up and till Mid 2013 parents of new born were issued only with a birth certificate which stated the mother’s info. You had to apply for an unabridged birth certificate separately. Since around August you had the option to apply at birth for a fully fledged unabridged birth certificate that has both parent’s info on the document. A birth certificate takes a few days, an unabridged birth certificate takes 6 to 8 weeks at the least. Personally we had to re-apply twice when we needed one for our 2 year old. It took 6 months.
So if all this is a good law, what’s the problem?
It is crazy to announce a new law in June and expect everyone to comply by 1 July. Most parents do not have unabridged birth certificates, as they have never had the need for it. What if you have a family holiday booked for 1 July and all of a sudden you have to cancel due to new legislation? From what I have been able to piece together is that they will enforce this at the check in desk, as they would when they check for a visa. This means the airline has the responsibility to make sure that you have said Unabridged Birth certificate. Essentially it then becomes an airline v passenger fight, and Home Affairs sit back and watch the show.
So what now?
Good question. I have been in contact with several of the home affairs branches around the country, and frankly no one knows about it, except for the guy capturing the data onto the computer. The general response is if you have a holiday booked for July then forget about it. The cold hard fact is that they are sitting with a back log of applications from 2013. There is no chance that a parent will get an unabridged certificate issued through the legitimate channels in time for departure probably by September. The numbers are frightening. A conservative price for a family of 4 travelling to Mauritius for a week is around R50,000. This is low, but for the purpose let’s assume that 50 families travel abroad daily to destinations around the world. Between now and 1 September there are 80 days, so R50,000 x 50 families x 80 days equals a possible R 200,000,000 in affected travel plans. This is only the outgoing passengers who do not have unabridged birth certificates. To change your holiday plans now will cost you money, as airlines will charge cancellations, and to change a Mauritius trip planned for July to September will see you paying an additional 20 odd percent due to July being low season, and September prices being higher. The truth is that this will hit tax payers the most, as they are the ones spending money on travel.
Is there a solution?
1) Yes, have a home affairs desk at all international airports that can issue the certificates on the spot. There should be absolutely no reason why in a computerised era this is not doable. Home affairs spent a massive amount of money years ago to digitize everything, so why can’t they have a on the spot service?
2) Get home affairs sorted out, so that the 6 to 8 week processing time becomes a one day service.
3) Roll out a plan to improve the service at Home Affairs
4) Set a reasonable deadline. Give people a year to get their affairs in order. Don’t expect that people have to do things in 3 weeks, when your own department cannot deliver in the same time.
To all other parents and travel partners out there. I wish you luck over the next few months as this is an embarrassment to our industry. Mr Gigaba, please think about the repercussions of your actions, and think about how you will affect our economy. You are not doing our industry any favors.