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Visitors to South Africa from four of the seven countries that were granted visa-free status by Home Affairs Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi in July, can now travel to the country without visas.
“As from today (August 15), travellers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit South Africa for holidays, conferencing, and business meeting visits,” the Minister said. He added that the Department of Home Affairs had already sent directives to ports of entry, airlines, and its missions abroad informing them of the removal of visa requirements for nationals of these countries who wish to visit South Africa.
CEO of SATSA, David Frost, welcomed the waivers. “This is the culmination of a struggle the private sector has been having since 2014.” Speaking specifically about New Zealand, Frost added that although the visa waiver was great, visa requirements for New Zealand should never have been introduced in the first place. He further pointed out that the introduction of visa requirements for New Zealand had cost South Africa an estimated R120m (€7.09m) in its first year.
Visa waivers for the other three countries (Ghana, Cuba, and Sao Tome and Principe) will be implemented once the department concludes negotiations with them. Negotiations are scheduled to be complete by the end of August.
The Minister said the decision had been taken unilaterally, and that engagements were under way with these countries to see how they could relax the entry requirements for SA citizens visiting them. “I am glad to say that Qatar has already waived visa requirements for South Africans and this will enable our people to attend Qatar FIFA World Cup 2022 more easily,” Motsoaledi said.
Tshifhiwa Tshivhengwa, CEO of the Tourism Business Council of South Africa (TBCSA) said: “The TBCSA has been working closely with the Department of Home Affairs in identifying and submitting an economic rationale to get the waivers for these countries. The DHA has showed great interest in supporting tourism growth while balancing security.” He added that the TBCSA was pleased with the speed with which the department had moved from the announcement of visa waivers to their implementation. “We are working together in identifying and motivating for more countries to get visa waivers in a bid to reach 21 million tourist by 2030. Tourism’s potential is great for this country and, given the space to grow, it will stimulate the economy and create jobs,” Tshivhengwa added.
“Visa waivers need to be rapidly extended to other markets,” added Frost. “Especially where people are still required to travel to other countries to appear in person, in order to satisfy visa requirements.”
“The Department of Home Affairs has an important contribution to make in growing tourism and by extension, growing the economy and creating jobs. We are constantly reviewing our operations to ensure that we relax entry requirements without compromising our responsibility towards the safety and security of our citizens,” Motsoaledi concluded.
Frost concluded by saying that it was good that sanity had prevailed. “But we would like to see that sanity extended to an absolute and wholesale repeal of requirements for minors travelling to SA to carry any form of Unabridged Birth Certificate. The current semantic confusion around regulations means that none of my SATSA members can sell South Africa to families with confidence.”