Hearings imminent on the new immigration regulations

2014-09-11 16:46

The Western Cape provincial government has arranged hearings into the new immigration regulations. These hearings have been scheduled for 25 and 26 September, and the Minister of Home Affairs, Malusi Gigaba, has been invited to attend them. They have been organised at the behest of the Western Cape provincial government and the Cape Chamber of Commerce. (The Western Cape is one of the 9 provinces in South Africa.)

The occurrence of the hearings is not a surprise to observers of the immigration situation in environment in South Africa. There has been substantial opposition to the new regulations, and one of the most strident opponents has been Alan Winde, the Western Cape provincial minister (or MEC) for tourism. He has publicly voiced concern over the impact that the regulations are going to have on visitor attitudes towards South Africa.

This, in turn, affects tourism and visitor figures. Airlines, too, are supposedly going to be negatively affected by the regulations. South Africa has a significant tourism industry, something which has been highlighted in a recent article on this site. The published figure of R18.5bn annually (or approximately USD1.5bn) is not a small sum. The interest of the Cape Chamber of Commerce in the matter is also telling.

Whether or not Gigaba attends the hearings a another matter entirely. The ANC national government is notorious for sending lower-ranking representatives to such events. This is not necessarily due to an attitude of condescension, as there is only one national minister in a country of 55 million people, but it won't be any surprise if the deputy minister of Home Affairs (Fatima Chohan) or even the director-general (Mkuseli Apleni) pitches up at the hearings, or some other senior official.

Added to the administrative objections that the opponents of the new regulations have raised, there is also another aspect to the situation. The Western Cape is not under the authority of the ANC, but the DA (Democratic Alliance). It is the only province that has a DA provincial government. The ANC rules the other 8 provinces. The underlying issue that arises here is as to how politically motivated the opposition of the DA is to these new regulations, or how politicised the ANC's disregard of that opposition may be. In the absence of specific commentary on this issue, by any interested party, it remains an obvious implicit point in the debate, and one the importance of which remains to be seen.

It is to be hoped, however, that the process of assessment and opposition, does not translate into litigation or more extensive measures. Foreigners struggling to obtain documentation may not realise the extent to which DA-ANC conflicts and tension occasionally impede or negate attempts at the implementation or discussion of policy in South Africa. It is impossible to ignore this dimension of the debate around the new regulations, and as such this author, at least, hopes that such hostility is not going to protract or hamper the hearings and their outcome, and that the state officials, whether national or provincial, will not allow their political statuses to assume priority over the administrative questions at hand. Tourism is a serious industry in South Africa, and the economy is going to suffer if there is a party-based squabble or publicised slanging-match.


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