Cape Town - South Africa will not heed calls for new immigration regulations to be relaxed, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Tuesday.
Introducing his department's budget vote debate, Gigaba said the new regulations were aimed at regulating movement into and out of South Africa and ensuring national security.
“Opportunistically, South Africa is being advised to drop or relax visa requirements in a world where they are required of South Africans when travelling abroad and where security has become a matter of global concern,” said Gigaba.
“We reject with contempt any suggestion that these regulations are part of an Afrophobic agenda to keep Africans, or any nationality for that matter, out of South Africa.”
Existing visa waiver agreements would not be “unilaterally removed”.
“We value the contribution of fellow Africans from across the continent living in South Africa and that is why we have continued to support the AU and SADC initiatives to free human movement, but this cannot happen haphazardly... or to the exclusion of security,” Gigaba said.
“Risks to any country on our continent have a direct impact on our own country.
The new immigration regulations, which introduce a new visa regime for South Africa, came into effect on May 26.
The regulations draw a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits.
They stipulate that visa applications need to be made by applicants in person, and those wanting to change the status of their visa can no longer do so in South Africa but have to do so at missions abroad.
Foreigners who overstay after the expiry of their permits could be declared “undesirable” and barred from entering the country for a period of time.
In recent weeks, at least two families have won interim orders in the Western Cape High Court after they were separated from their spouses through the new regulations.
Brent Johnson and Cherene Delorie were separated from their foreign spouses after they were declared “undesirable”.
The court ruled the families were prejudiced and the spouses could remain in the country, subject to terms and conditions prescribed by Home Affairs.
Gigaba rejected concerns that the new visa regime would result in critical skills leaving the country.
“The new immigration regulations will make it easier to source critical skills from overseas,” he said.
“Foreign nationals possessing critical skills can now apply for and be granted a critical skills visa, even without a job, allowing them to enter the country and seek work for a period of up to 12 months.” - Sapa