Johannesburg - South Africa is working towards allowing all African citizens to enter the country without visas – but at first “trusted travellers” like diplomats, officials, academics, business people and students will be the only ones to benefit.
The Department of Home Affairs outlines the steps that will be taken towards scrapping visa requirements in its latest White Paper on International Migration, which was adopted by cabinet six weeks ago but not made public yet.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063, championed by former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, calls for the scrapping of visa requirements for all African citizens travelling on the continent by 2018 based on the views of the African Rennaissance.
The African passport was launched with great ceremony by Dlamini-Zuma and Rwandan President Paul Kagame at last year's AU summit in Kigali.
According to the White Paper, South Africa “fully supports the vision of an Africa where its citizens can move more freely across national borders, where intra-Africa trade is encouraged and there is greater integration and development of the African continent”.
It said the current status was untenable. “For instance, on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries. They can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries. Finally, they do not need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent.”
But the White Paper, which moves South Africa’s approach to immigration from a purely administrative one to a security-based approach, warns that the scrapping of visas needs to happen with caution.
South Africa’s risk-based approach “advocates for an incremental removal of migration formalities for frequent and trusted travellers including diplomats, officials, academics, business persons, students, etc.”
The policy is envisaged as follows: African citizens can enter South Africa visa-free where there are reciprocal agreements.
Visas will only be needed when there are risks of foreign nationals overstaying, security risks like organised crime, terrorism and political instability, civil registration risks, i.e. fraud by foreign governments in issuing documents or an unable or unwillingness to identfy their nationals when requested, and for countries “with a high number of nationals who abuse the asylum system”.
One of the countries identified elsewhere in the document as doing such is Zimbabwe.
Key elements of the visa-free regime would be visa-free entry for visits up to 90 days, recognition of visas for third parties, for example regional visas, agreed standards on immigration and border management, agreed standards on civil registration and “sophisticated, real-time risk management, information and intelligence sharing”.
Where visas are required “South Africa should make it as easy as possible for bona fide travellers to enter South Africa", by standardising and expanding the use of long-term, multiple-entry visas for frequent travellers, business people and academics, according to the White Paper.
A list will be developed of countries whose visa adjucation systems are trusted and recognised by South Africa, and technology will be used to establish trusted traveller schemes. news24