Johannesburg - Discussion on the new immigration regulations will continue and problems will be tested to prevent negative impacts on the economy, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said on Friday.
“Our doors are not closed. We are open to further engagement on the consequences. You can never introduce new regulations that are perfect and will work,” he said at The New Age's televised breakfast briefing in Midrand.
“You have to expect that there would be challenges and we are open to testing those on the ground if there is a need to change anything. We are open to continuous engagement with the different parties... because we wouldn't want these regulations to have a negative impact on tourism and other elements of our economic growth and development.”
The regulations, which came into effect in May, introduce a new visa regime for South Africa. It outlines a clear distinction between short-stay visas and long-stay permanent residence permits. It also stipulates 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.
Gigaba said officials in foreign missions were being trained on the implementation of the legislation.
“We are moving into a new era of immigration management... It imposes on us to be proactive and it will bring many positive processes to our country. One of the issues is how to manage national security,” he said.
Gigaba said he understood the problems businesses were facing with regard to the implementation of the new regulations.
“We will test existing legislation with the policy framework we are going to bring about. It is at an advanced stage.”
He said he was pleased with the reaction to the new legislation as it showed that people were participating in the process.
“I'm very happy about the public discourse around the new legislation because it says that South Africans, not only academics and practitioners are being involved in the process, but ordinary South Africans are being drawn in.
“The reaction we got was that some people have rejected it completely without considering that there are positives, and sometimes people reject the legislation when the real issue is about the implementation, and so the regulations themselves don't pose a problem.”
Gigaba's department would also appeal a court case it lost last month in the Western Cape High Court in favour of two people separated from their spouses because of immigration laws.
“We are appealing it because we believe we are correct in our approach,” he told delegates at the briefing.
According to the SABC on June 30, Brent Johnson and Cherene Delorie took the department to court to challenge what they called “unconstitutional legislation” governing visa applications.
Their foreign partners were branded undesirable and barred entry into South Africa. Home affairs said this was after they failed to follow due process when renewing their visas earlier in 2014.
Judge James Yekiso ruled that the status of undesirability over Johnson's wife and son who are in Denmark, and Delorie's husband who is in Zimbabwe, be suspended and they be allowed to return to South Africa.
The briefing was screened on SABC2. - Sapa