Cape Town - In a move geared at putting further pressure on the national government, Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde has formally petitioned Parliament to suspend the newly-implemented immigration regulations, saying they will have disastrous consequences for the entire economy.
And while the DA-run Western Cape government is tackling the issue through official channels, the party has started an online petition to drum up support for electronic visas (e-visas) for tourists visiting the country.
Winde on Monday handed over the Western Cape government’s petition to DA MP James Vos, who will in turn lodge the petition with the Speaker in the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete. This was done because a petition must be formally submitted by an MP.
Explaining the procedures, Winde said that once it had been reviewed the petition would be tabled in Parliament, thereafter it would be referred to the relevant portfolio committee or select committee which would deal with the issues raised.
The new regulations require that visa applications be made by applicants in person, while people needing to change the status of their visa from short stay to long stay would not be able to do so in South Africa, but only at embassies abroad.
Winde said this further complicated the process. “The regulations say that if you are doing business here and you are on a scarce-skills list you actually have to now go through a Department of Labour process, which, in itself, is a huge bureaucratic nightmare. So between the two departments you are now adding extra red tape.
“These are the kind of messages that we are picking up from tour operators and countries that are sending visitors to us that they are really going to rethink how they market the country.”
Winde said a regulatory impact assessment was urgently needed to determine what the real cost would be.
“We are saying, give it another year and in that time let’s get our systems in place at our international missions. Let’s use technology and be smart in the way we do things. We don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator or the most difficult way in doing business. Why don’t we be smart in this and put cutting-edge technology in that actually says to the world, come and visit us, we’ve got rules and regulations, but it’s simple and easy and the most effective globally.”
Winde said he was aware of at least four organisations that were preparing to take the matter to court. “There are cases of key people in investment companies that are already struggling with the new regulations. In one case, the company’s chief financial officer, who is a German national, is sitting in Germany at the moment and it will probably take three months before he can get his work permit to come and work here.”
Confirming receipt of the petition, Vos said he would ensure that the petition was handed to the Speaker and that debate on the issue was prioritised.
“I must make sure that this petition and proposal for electronic visas is considered by the relevant portfolio committees so that decision-makers can hear our views and the concerns of industry,” he said.
Vos, who is driving the DA’s online petition, which already had more than 1 300 signatures by late on Monday, said the move aimed to save local jobs that would be threatened by the country’s new immigration regulations.
He said e-visas had proven to be “highly effective” in countries such as Turkey.